Let's go shopping!

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

Three straight seasons without a playoff berth should be enough to pressure the Calgary Stampeders to take a refreshing plunge into the free-agent pool this week.

They need to at least test the waters, so to speak, by dipping in one toe while all indications are they could dive right in, considering the talent that's available.

The new ownership group, committed to winning, has pockets deep enough to finance an aggressive hunt for stars to help launch the team's new era.

All factors considered, it's a safe assumption the Red and White will be after key players when the free-agent feeding frenzy begins tomorrow at 10 p.m.

While the front-seven was outstanding last season and special teams OK, with just four wins in 2004, the Red and White's offence and secondary were glaring weaknesses.

The Stamps surely will be chasing after free-agent quarterback Henry Burris, while a number of receivers will be available to provide Calgary with a legitimate deep threat.

Whether Burris or current No. 1 pivot Khari Jones is flinging footballs at McMahon Stadium next season, the Stamps need to add a fleet-footed target to their arsenal.

While CFL outstanding rookie Nik Lewis had a sensational debut last season, the release last week of both Wane McGarity and Albert Connell creates a need for another game-breaking receiver.

A handful of top-notch pass catchers will be on the market and each has three things in common: Speed, size and an ability to take a contest into their own sure hands.

The Stamps are also still working on re-signing free agent cornerback Omar Evans, whose departure could force their hand in the secondary.

DB help is also out there if the price is right and, what the heck, since we're playing with someone else's money, let's go sign some stars:

* QB Henry Burris, Saskatchewan Roughriders (29):

The one-time Stampeders backup (1997-99) is the shiny Cadillac on this year's used-car lot and you can bet the team's new owners are anxious to kick the tires.

Burris will command more than $300,000 per season but he's a bargain considering Jones, acquired late last season, is already earning more and has less upside.

Remember, along with Burris's price tag comes instant credibility for the offence and increased ticket sales. Suddenly, $300,000 doesn't sound that outlandish, although Edmonton will also be making a pitch to dress him in Green and Gold.

* Import WR Jeremaine Copeland, Montreal Alouettes (27):

Copeland led the CFL in receiving yards in 2003 after testing free agency the previous off-season and hauled in almost 3,000 yards in receptions over the past two years.

As Alouettes offensive co-ordinator in 2002, new Stampeders personnel man Jim Barker worked with Copeland and understands his potential to light up the scoreboard. Barker even tried to sign the star receiver in 2003, the last time the wideout tested free agency, although Copeland returned to the Alouettes and the consistent quarterbacking of Anthony Calvillo.

Copeland piled up more than 1,700 yards in 2003 helping the Als get to the Grey Cup game for the second straight year. Last season, he again surpassed 1,000 yards with 83 grabs for

1,154 yards and 10 TDs.

* Import WR Ed Hervey, Edmonton Eskimos (31):

In six seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos, Ed Hervey developed into one of the most dangerous receivers in the CFL, culminating with league all-star honours and a Grey Cup title in 2003.

In two of his last four seasons in Edmonton, Hervey eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark while adapting to changes at quarterback.

Even in his 30s, the CFL veteran still has plenty of gas left in the tank and would make Stampeders fans quickly forget about McGarity and Connell.

* Import WR Chris Brazzell, B.C. Lions (28):

Isn't it about time Wally Buono's Lions lost a player to Calgary, reversing a mass exodus to Lotusland that became a trend the last two years?

The four-year CFLer will be 29 next season and was overshadowed by the outstanding season from teammate Geroy Simon.

Brazzell was a 1,000-yard man with the Lions in '03 while he grabbed 49 passes for

906 years in 2004, sporting an astounding 18.5-yard average and eight TDs.

* Import DB Anthony Malbrough, Ottawa (28):

Shipped by Calgary to Ottawa last season, Malbrough was dearly missed last campaign.

He was a consistent presence in the Stamps secondary in 2003 and could return to his starting halfback spot, replacing Milo Lewis, who was released last week.

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OTHER PENDING FREE AGENTS

* QB Darnell Kennedy

* R Travis Moore

* R Winston October

* OL Luke Fritz

* OL Donald Heaven

* RB Mark Nohra

* RB Mike Pringle

* DL Eric England

* LB Carl Kidd

* LB Kelly Wiltshire

* DB Davis Sanchez


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