'Backer expects to return

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

Import linebacker John Grace has received a contract offer from the Calgary Stampeders and expects to return to the club for 2005 and beyond.

The West Division nominee for defensive player of the year, a free agent Feb. 15, said he's left the proposal in the hands of agent Zeke Sandhu and hopes a new pact will be worked out.

"I expect to be back and I want to be back next year but it's a business. That's why I leave it up to my agent," Grace said.

"I'm not anxious. I've been in this situation before and I know not to panic, just let things work themselves out.

"It's something as a player that you just let your agent handle.

"That's why you pay him to take care of things."

Grace led the Stampeders in 2004 with seven quarterback sacks and three interceptions, including two for touchdowns, in his first year in Calgary after an off-season trade from Ottawa.

He proved a crucial ingredient in defensive co-ordinator Denny Creehan's 3-4 defence that evolved into one of the few highlights of the team's 4-14 season.

It's believed Grace earned close to $75,000 last season in the second year of a deal he signed with the Renegades before the 2003 campaign.

"I'm not really that involved," Grace said. "I spoke briefly with my agent when I left Calgary. We'll sit down in a week or so and see what the game plan is."

Grabbing defensive player of the year honours at the CFL awards Grey Cup week would obviously boost his marketability but Grace said he isn't determined to test free agency.

"That's not the plan right now," said Grace, 27. "We'll wait and see what fair market value is. The league takes salary surveys, so we'll know what's out there."

Stampeders GM Matt Dunigan said he expects to again chat with Grace's agent later this week.

"John wants to come back here. We want him back here," Dunigan said.

"Obviously, with those accolades, the perceived pressure it puts on the club is magnified a bit but other than that, we're all on the same page. We have talked very openly and freely about what we can and can't do and I feel we can work something out.

"We've presented an offer we feel is a fair offer but we also want to be responsible."

Creehan is another key off-season signing for the Stampeders.

President Ron Rooke, when asked if Creehan has been offered a new deal, said the defensive guru is under contract until the end of January, as is the entire staff.


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