Stamps all shook up

Stamps coach Tom Higgins told six players they were either released or won't be offered new deals...

Stamps coach Tom Higgins told six players they were either released or won't be offered new deals this year. (Calgary Sun File/Darren Makowichuk)

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:55 AM ET

More blood was spilled yesterday at McMahon Stadium as the new Calgary Stampeders regime makes sweeping changes to the roster.

Tom Higgins, head coach and senior v.p. of football operations, told six players they were either released or won't be offered new deals.

The most surprising move was not re-signing import receiver/kick returner Wane McGarity, who possesses game-breaking speed and was a fan favourite. The former Dallas Cowboy led the Stamps last season with 1,722 all-purpose yards.

The Stamps also won't offer contracts to QB Marcus Crandell, receiver Albert Connell and defensive back William Fields while DB Milo Lewis and QB Tommy Jones were released.

"We want to give them every opportunity to catch on and play somewhere else," said Higgins, who inherited a 4-14 team but was unwilling to critique the departing players.

"I refuse to get into negatives. It's time to move on and we need to go on in a direction that doesn't include these players.

"I would never go into details as to why but I will take the hit for all these calls instead of trying to justify these moves."

Higgins waited until new QB coach Bill Diedrick and secondary coach Tim Burke were on board this week before making the final call.

Crandell failed to reach his potential after leading the Stampeders to the Grey Cup in 2001 before re-signing a three-year deal. Inconsistency plagued the seven-year CFL veteran.

Connell, a former NFLer with Washington and New Orleans, was highly skilled but proved injury prone in his two seasons in Calgary.

William Fields was a four-year veteran of the Red and White but lost his starting cornerback spot late last year.

Lewis was signed as a free agent prior to last season by former GM Matt Dunigan but failed to live up to expectations.

The moves come just days before the Feb. 15 free-agent deadline when teams can begin negotiating with eligible players.

The Stamps could go after free-agent quarterback Henry Burris of Saskatchewan and receivers Jeremaine Copeland of Montreal or Ed Hervey of Edmonton, who played for Higgins the past four seasons.

"You can assume that but there's no guarantees we're going to go get anybody, so don't read any more other than we're on our own to make sure we take care of ourselves," Higgins said.

Higgins noted he has come to terms with three other receivers with NFL experience but won't announce the signings until the contracts land on his desk.

At quarterback, the Stamps are left with Khari Jones and Michael Souza.

Khari Jones' salary of more than $300,000 per season makes him one of the highest-paid pivots in the league, leading to speculation Higgins will make a play for Burris.

"There's so much assumption going into everything we do," Higgins said. "The only thing that's guaranteed is that Khari is here and Mike Souza is here and that's a pretty good start.

"I'd like to only have four quarterbacks in camp. We have a lot of quarterbacks in mind who are on our negotiation list as well."


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