Esks don't waste any time

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

WINNIPEG - That didnít take long.

Maybe an hour after he cleared CFL waivers, Brandon-born receiver Chris Bauman was signed, sealed and delivered to the Edmonton Eskimos, who left the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and a few other teams in their green and gold financial dust.

Released by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats a week ago, Baumanís paycheque will be the envy of more than a few fellow Canadians, and will surely raise eyebrows around the league.

Itís not often a player who toiled mostly as a backup, as Bauman did in Hamilton last season, is rewarded with a six-figure contract. But thatís exactly what happened to the 26-year-old, former first overall draft pick who latched onto just 17 passes in a forgettable 2010 campaign.

Word is Bauman will earn as much as $125,000 per with the Esks.

Obviously, GM Eric Tillman remembers the Bauman who caught 78 passes his first two seasons. Or maybe the one who came on like gangbusters at the tail end of last year, with 100-yard games late in the season and in the playoffs.

Seems to me there are worse things than having the confidence of Tillman, one of the shrewder GMs in the loop and a man who knows the value of Canadian talent.

It wouldnít be the first time Tillman knows something the rest of the CFLís big thinkers donít.

Then again, this could also be a classic case of one of the leagueís rich franchises overpaying a player and driving up the cost of doing business.

The leagueís free agency period begins in a week, so you could say the bar is set.

If the 6-foot-4 Bauman is worth six figures, whatís veteran O-lineman Alex Gauthier worth, for instance?

Gauthier, another player with ties to Winnipeg (he was a Blue Bomber in 2007-08), is in the same boat as Bauman was, released by Hamilton to get a head start on free agency.

Where all this leaves the Bombers, a franchise starving for good Canadians, is open to debate.

Theyíre either a day late and a dollar short, as Iíve already suggested, or theyíre being sensible. Willing to be patient with their own developing Canadians instead of going for the quick fix.

As much as I questioned this teamís foot-dragging on the Bauman issue last week, I donít blame the higher-ups for not matching Tillmanís gamble. And it is a gamble.

There are those around the CFL who believe Tillman overpaid.

You donít pay a guy north of $100,000 to be a second stringer. At that money, heís got to produce, far more than the 36 catches he put up over the last two seasons.

The thing is, you donít pay players for what theyíve done in the past. Baumanís cheques will come after each of Edmontonís next 18 games.

If he becomes the reliable, every-down player he was pegged to be when he was drafted, the Esks will have a big, ratio-breaking Canadian receiver at a fair price.

And the Bombers, particularly, will rue the day they let one get away.

Bauman wanted to play here, close to home. He was hoping the Bombers would make him a competitive offer.

He might even have taken a little less money if he thought he was really wanted here.

But for whatever reason, head coach Paul LaPolice and GM Joe Mack werenít all that interested. They didnít talk to him early, they didnít give him a positive vibe about their interest in him and they certainly didnít get his attention, financially.

We hear Winnipegís offer was in the $80,000 range, which, given the guyís recent history, isnít bad.

Tillman, obviously, sees something very different in Baumanís future.

The ratio-challenged Blue Bombers can only hope heís wrong.


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