Hebert has million reasons to stay

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

The Renegades did what was necessary to lock up Kyries Hebert.

The key was the guarantee.

In a move certain to create a stir from coast to, well, Montreal, the Renegades have made Hebert the CFL's highest-paid defensive player, signing him to a landmark, five-year contract that will earn him in the $1-million range if it is fulfilled.

The first two years of the deal are guaranteed -- particularly noteworthy in a league that rarely sees a player get a one-year promise -- and will pay the two-year veteran linebacker around $300,000, including a signing bonus.

The Renegades had to make such a strong commitment or risk losing the 25-year-old Louisiana native to the NFL.

"Getting the first two years guaranteed was something I didn't think I could pass up," Hebert offered from Houston yesterday. "I was definitely going to get a shot (in the NFL), but I needed more than that. I have responsibilities ... I have two little girls, a house, cars ... you don't get that stuff taken care of with a 'maybe we will keep you and maybe we won't.' I can't gamble on myself when it means gambling with my daughters.

"I 100% know there are guys who aren't as good as me in the NFL, but if you're not in the right place at the right time, there's a whole lot of things that can go wrong before the talent issue comes into play."

Hebert, a 6-foot-3, 210-pounder who combines speed, fierceness and a penchant for making the big play, was one of Ottawa's top players last season. He led the team in defensive tackles with 66 (a modest 13th among league leaders) and also finished tied for the CFL lead in special teams tackles with 29.

The former Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajun also registered three forced fumbles and three interceptions, two of which he ran back for touchdowns.

"I'm very pleased we're getting Kyries back," said Renegades GM Forrest Gregg. "I've watched a lot of film since the season ended and this guy is a football player. He's a very important part of our team."

Since season's end, the Renegades have signed five players to contracts of either four or five years in length -- Hebert, defensive backs Da'Shann Austin and Bo Rogers, punter Pat Fleming and linebacker Donnavan Carter.

ARMSTEAD ON DECK

Wide receiver/return specialist Jason Armstead is expected to ink an extension through the 2010 season, while it's believed centre George Hudson still plans on signing a five-year contract.

Renegades president Lonie Glieberman said the team would take out insurance on Hebert's contract, protecting them against the possibility of injury.

"We see one of the keys in the CFL as being able to keep your impact players, going through the best years of their careers," Glieberman said from league meetings in Las Vegas. "Forrest and (coach) John (Jenkins) have identified Kyries as a key player on this team.

"We believe in continuity, we want to lock up our best players through long-term deals and build a team, not just a weigh station for players, but a nucleus that will play together and win together.''

Hebert acknowledged the challenge facing the Renegades in what should be a very competitive East Division in 2006, but that he would "never shy away" from a challenge.

He also said he really likes Ottawa, and the Renegades' offer made him feel wanted.

"It let me know they're committed to winning," he said. "That's what it took to get me back.

''They know I'm going to show up every day. I'm a guarantee, as far as my work ethic, and that's not going to change."

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


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