Hey, Mr. Moneybags!

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:38 PM ET

The Edmonton Eskimos have lost another veteran offensive lineman.

On the heels of Bruce Beaton retiring after the Grey Cup, Sandy Annunziata has now left the Green and Gold, agreeing to a lucrative five-year deal with the Ottawa Renegades.

"It's a six-figure per year deal," Annunziata told the Sun last night.

The 36-year-old non-import guard/centre verbally agreed to the free-agent deal yesterday and expects to receive the official paperwork from Ottawa today.

More importantly for Annunziata's former team, the move means the Eskimos could enter training camp missing three of the six offensive linemen on its Grey Cup roster, as Kevin Lefsrud's future remains uncertain.

But Edmonton head coach Danny Maciocia doesn't seem too concerned.

"I think when you take a look at the situation up front, we're pretty comfortable with the personnel we have. Also the talent that comes with it," said Maciocia.

"We have got people like Patrick Kabongo, Rhett McLane and Glen Carson - and we acquired Tim Bakker (via trade with Hamilton)."

Maciocia denied the Esks are pursuing free agent non-import offensive lineman Bobby Singh.

And he admitted the club won't begin negotiations now that Annunziata has left.

MORE NEW FACES

But Maciocia did reveal the team would have more new faces in camp.

"We're in the process of negotiating with a couple of import players," said the coach. "These are guys with previous NFL experience."

After watching Annunziata start 11 games last year before becoming the main backup down the stretch, the Eskimos tried to keep the personable 10-year CFL veteran in Edmonton.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Hamilton Tiger-Cats also tried to lure the back-to-back Grey Cup winner. However, nobody could compete with Ottawa's offer.

"My salary was a little bit out of (Edmonton, Winnipeg and Hamilton's) range for what they needed me for, so I don't think those teams were really in contention," continued Annunziata.

HE FIT THE BILL

"I think once (Ottawa) lost (centre) George Hudson - and I think they are going to lose Pascal Cheron as well - they saw a need to go after an experienced offensive lineman and I fit that bill."

The deal means the University of Western Ontario product leaves the Grey Cup champions for a team that has lost key free agents in the last week and is being ridiculed for off-field shenanigans.

In addition, a new coaching staff in Ottawa means a new system for a club that struggled to a 7-11 record last year.

But those facts aren't causing Annunziata much stress.

"I have been through the Jeff Reinebold years in Winnipeg and I have been through the bankruptcy in Toronto," he said.

"Whatever problems they have internally (in Ottawa), I am sure they are going to get their hands around it and put another good product on the field."

Besides the attractive paycheque, there are other benefits to Ottawa.

"Family-wise, everything is within driving distance again," he said from his home in the Niagara region of southern Ontario.

"And the city of Ottawa is beautiful and you can't ask to play in a better city than that."

LATE HIT: Although nothing is official, Chris Morris appears to be leaning toward playing another year.

After winning the Grey Cup, there was plenty of speculation suggesting the 14-year veteran would retire.

"Chris and I have met once and we still have to meet at least one more time," said Maciocia.

"He's thinking of coming back.

"But we don't know in what capacity and in what role."

EXTRA POINT: Lefsrud is still pondering whether he will retire, but Maciocia hopes to hear a decision in the next month.


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