Good gamble

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

It could be an expensive experiment that blows up in their faces.

On the other hand, by this time next season, we might be calling it the most successful swap in Calgary Stampeders history.

Either way, the men calling the shots down at McMahon Stadium were willing to go deep by acquiring quarterback Khari Jones and it was their best shot at fielding a winner next year.

When you're 3-11 and destined to miss the playoffs for the third straight campaign, pushing your entire pile of chips into the middle of the table doesn't seem like such a gamble.

Who knows? They could hit the jackpot.

Losing 2003 defensive player of the year Joe Fleming and two Canadian starters in safety Wes Lysack and fullback Scott Regimbald looks like a dear price to pay for a 33-year-old pivot with a wonky wing.

But Fleming and Regimbald are four weeks away from free agency and wouldn't have re-signed in Calgary anyway, essentially making it a Lysack-for-Jones trade.

Call Fleming's and Regimbald's inevitable departure Dunigan's fault but the fact remains they were destined to play elsewhere next season -- so why not get value in return?

The hard-hitting Lysack could have been a Stampeders Wall of Famer one day but adding the Winnipeg boy to the deal was the only way to spring Jones loose from the 'Peg -- well worth the risk.

Losing Fleming's contract also frees up about $170,000 a year toward Jones' hefty deal that exceeds $1 million over the next three years.

Jones threw 46 TD passes in 2002 and the community- owned Bombers think newcomer Kevin Glenn's $85,000 deal is much easier to swallow.

Jones won't be ready to start Wednesday in Toronto but should be able to take the No. 1 role in the rematch Oct. 16 at McMahon while adding instant credibility to a franchise in dire need of believers both in the locker-room and in the stands.

"The guy has put great numbers up and is a proven winner," gushed Stamps GM-head coach Matt Dunigan.

"He was MVP of the league a couple of years ago and is a tremendous talent to have on any football team."

Fleming has denied rumblings the trade was subject to him agreeing to terms of a contract extension with the Bombers.

He'll test free agency this off-season like he always has and could still wind up signing with Wally Buono in B.C.

"I always try to be very realistic. Why not at least try to get a Canadian draft pick for me?" Fleming suggested yesterday.

"It's better than nothing."

The Stamps see it the same way.

If the Bombers can re-sign Fleming and Regimbald in the off-season, the deal is a winner for Winnipeg.

If Jones returns to his MVP form, both will be forgotten by Stampeders followers.

"I expect (Jones) to come here and lead this football team," Dunigan demanded.

"He's an experienced quarterback who's been there and done that and is continually looking for a commitment from his teammates and from himself for excellence.

"It's a tremendous fit. He's just coming into the prime of his career.

"When you bring a Khari Jones into the mix, my expectations are he will raise the level of abilities of those around him and that's a difference maker.

"Khari Jones is that guy so the weapons we have now will only get better and be enhanced because of his type of mentality and approach to the game."

Those credentials are what Dunigan demanded but never received from veteran pivot Marcus Crandell.

The prospect of getting them from Jones was well worth the gamble.


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