Slim free agent pickings

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

Welcome to the Canadian Football League's new era of free agency -- better known as a shopping trip to the discard bin.

Looking for a marquee name to turn your defence around, the way the Winnipeg Blue Bombers did with linebacker Barrin Simpson a year ago?

Forget it. You'll have to settle for soon-to-be 34-year-old Carl Kidd, a heck of a player in his prime but more mouth than motor these days.

Need to plug a 300-pound hole on your offensive line? Last year you could pick and choose between studs George Hudson and Bobby Singh.

This year?

Help yourself to 37-year-old Andrew Greene, with more mileage on him than Pamela Anderson, and a body that's starting to show it.

OUT OF LUCK

If you had your eyes on homegrown receiver Ryan Thelwell out of B.C., you're out of luck, as he reportedly reached an agreement with Calgary late yesterday. The Lions actually gave teams permission to talk to him early since they had no plans for him.

That leaves Terry Vaughn as the only notable receiver on the market. But Vaughn is already a discard, cut by Hamilton a while back after doing the free-agent thing a year ago. And he's 35.

The free agent pond is rarely the place to land a quarterback, and this year is no exception.

Unless you covet a fading legend like 43-year-old Damon Allen, who likely would only play in Toronto anyway, an underachiever like Spergon Wynn or Nealon Greene, a runner who still hasn't learned how to play quarterback.

Where last year you could sign a Josh Ranek at running back, this year you're looking at Scott Regimbald of the Bombers, a decent fullback who can open a hole but takes his time running through one.

The Lions needed a kicker last year and found Paul McCallum, who helped them win a Grey Cup.

Anyone looking for a foot this year will have to settle for the left one belonging to Troy Westwood, unless the Bombers re-sign him before tonight's deadline. Old Lefty's age (40 next month) and field goal percentage (69.8) aren't likely to have CFL GMs frothing at the mouth.

Probably the only area that surpasses the '06 class in talent is in the secondary, where you're looking at CFL Players Association all-star Omar Morgan and Davin Bush, part of a pretty good Saskatchewan defensive backfield over the last few years.

Toss in Winnipeg's Anthony Malbrough, and you could come home from this shopping trip with a solid pass defence.

Overall, though, the free agent list is stocked with more retreads than a used tire store.

Oh, you can pick up some bit pieces, Itty Bitty pieces, even, like pint-sized Montreal return man Ezra Landry.

But if last year's free agent crop was thin, this one's a supermodel on heroin.

Maybe it's because of the new salary management system. Most teams re-signed their priority players during Grey Cup week in order to count their signing bonuses towards last year's budget.

That outlay of cash took a slew of potential FA's off the market.

In turn, it pushed some older, higher-paid guys right out the door. Some, like Ranek (from Hamilton to Edmonton) and defensive end Tim Cheatwood (Hamilton to Montreal) were released outright and scooped up by new teams.

The rest, though, could discover the harsh reality of a new era in the CFL, beginning tonight.

The era where a free agent takes a pay cut instead of cashing in.


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