Shopping on a budget

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

They have their shopping list and chequebook handy, ready to roll this morning.

Just don't expect the Calgary Stampeders to take off on a spending spree on the first day of CFL free agency.

GM in charge of player personnel Jim Barker said yesterday the club will make a pitch today for quarterback Henry Burris, while there are holes to fill on offence and in the secondary.

Barker insists the Stampeders will be prudent shoppers, addressing only their greatest needs while not breaking the bank.

"The whole key to free agency is understanding where value is and knowing what you need and attacking those needs and not just buying wildly," Barker said after yesterday's meeting with coaches and front-office personnel.

"If you give a 10-year-old kid a wallet full of money and tell him to go to the mall and buy what he wants, you're going to get what you get.

"We're approaching this prudently. The coaches have done an outstanding job of evaluating where we're at, what we need and evaluating the free agents we think we can fit in and those are the ones we'll go after."

Burris played the last two seasons in Saskatchewan but was set to enter the free-agent market at 10 p.m. last night after apparently turning down the Roughriders' latest offer.

Calgary, Edmonton and Hamilton are expected to make the strongest play for Burris, who could command more than $300,000, while he and agent Ken Staninger could use the open market to draw a better offer from the 'Riders.

"The ball is back in their court and they know what it's going to take to sign Henry," Staninger said last night, preparing for what could turn into a bidding war for his client.

"I think Henry's a heck of a player to lead a team to a Grey Cup championship. It might be one or two teams interested. It might be four or five."

In addition to their interest in Burris, the Stampeders will spend the rest of their time and resources making pitches for receivers and defensive backs, the team's two weaknesses, according to Barker.

"We're looking at those two areas as areas of concern right now," said Barker.

"You have to identify the players who can help you and then you have to put value on those players. It's critical you don't get into it to win the bidding wars, that you get into it to get the player you need and that's the approach we're going to take."

The Stampeders are expected to pursue free-agent import receivers Jeremaine Copeland, Chris Brazzell and Ed Hervey in the hope of landing one of the high-priced pass catchers. Copeland, who played the last four seasons in Montreal, is the most talented of the bunch but would also command the highest salary, possibly in excess of $150,000.

Ottawa Renegades halfback Anthony Malbrough, a former Stampeder traded away before last season, could also fill a gaping hole in Calgary's secondary but Barker said the team won't overspend.

"We have an idea what players are worth and we're not going to go over that," Barker said.

"We'll be aggressive with the players we go after in terms of what we think will be competitive offers but we're not going to get into bidding wars. If you go into this with the idea you just have to have a certain player, you're in bad shape."

EXTRA POINTS: The Stampeders have re-signed import cornerback Omar Evans ... An offer has been made to Stampeders Canadian receiver Denis Montana, the team's only other free agent, but he's expected to look at other offers.


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