They're in the money

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:02 AM ET

In a smart business move, the Edmonton Eskimos signed Robert Brown to a new contract before last night's magical deadline.

The two-year deal (one-year plus an option) not only keeps the Green and Gold's defensive MVP from reaching the free-agent market, it helps the club get some salary cap room.

In a loophole that was only open until last night, CFL teams could sign players to bonus-laden contracts and put the bonus money on the 2006 financial books.

In other words, up until midnight yesterday a team could sign a player to a $100,000 deal but structure it so that $30,000 is in a bonus clause to be paid before Dec. 31, 2006, and $70,000 is in his salary next year.

Brown - the team leader in sacks (12) - wouldn't reveal specific dollar figures, but admitted his new deal calls for a bonus of at least $20,000.

"They needed to be under it (the salary cap) and I was happy to oblige," said the 32-year-old defensive tackle.

Although no other names have been revealed, the Sun has also learned the Eskimos signed at least four other players to new deals before yesterday's deadline.

In an off-season where the struggling Esks must have significant room under the $4.05 million salary cap to shop on the free-agent market, signing bonus-filled deals made perfect business sense.

FREE TO TALK: With the Alouettes' season now over, watch for Eskimo head coach Danny Maciocia to poke his nose around Montreal assistant coaches Kevin Strasser and Marcel Bellefeuille in the search for an offensive co-ordinator.

However, it's unclear if either offensive mind will be available because the Esks are unaware of their contract status.

For example, if Strasser - one of two Montreal offensive coordinators - has another year left on his Alouette contract with a strict clause that only allows him to leave for a head coaching vacancy, he's out of the running.

ONLY A HEAD COACH: It could have been a great match - but former Winnipeg offensive mastermind Mike Kelly will not be coming to Edmonton.

Although he quietly worked for the Eskimos this year in a scouting role and has a very impressive CFL resume as offensive co-ordinator from the 1990s, Kelly has his sights set much higher.

"If I return to the CFL it will be as a head coach," said Kelly, who is now working at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Kelly was the Bomber offensive coordinator from 1992-96, playing a pivotal role in Winnipeg finishing first in the East Division for three straight years.

FINISH LINES: According to the rumour mill, stud defensive tackle Doug Brown hasn't re-signed in Winnipeg because he's waiting to see what happens with assistant coach Greg Marshall. If Brown hits the free-agent market, the Esks are bound to make a serious pitch.


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