LaBatte signs with 'Riders

Brendon LaBatte is going to play in his home province after signing a deal with the Saskatchewan...

Brendon LaBatte is going to play in his home province after signing a deal with the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Thursday. (Chris Procaylo/QMI Agency/Files)

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:51 AM ET

WINNIPEG - The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have officially lost their anchor on the offensive line and arguably their best Canadian player.

Brendon LaBatte, drafted by the club four years ago and groomed into one of the CFL's best O-linemen, signed a free-agent deal with his home-province Saskatchewan Roughriders on Thursday morning.

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but it's believed the 'Riders offered him nearly $200,000 per season.

That transaction, along with the apparent loss of receiver Greg Carr to the Edmonton Eskimos, hasn't sat well with some members of the Bombers, who took to Twitter to unleash their frustrations.

Winnipeg Fans I LOVE you guys, but SOMEONE needs to get the front office right, cornerback Deon Beasley wrote. We wanna remain champions RIGHT. How did we go to the GREY CUP and still being cheap. Im heated.

Defensive back Jonathan Hefney noted the Bombers have signed all three of their free-agent quarterbacks and not much else.

Man seems like every team has gotten better except us, he wrote. I guess our 3 quarterbacks gonna play some receiver get the F outta here man. #Sad.

The Bombers believed they had a verbal agreement with Carr, but the Eskimos put more money on the table and the 6-foot-6 receiver changed his mind.

LaBatte said all along that his preference was to return to Winnipeg, but the Bombers were offering somewhere in the neighbourhood of $170,000 a season. It's unknown if LaBatte's intention was to always go to the Riders since he's from Weyburn, Sask.

LaBatte is only 25, but he was Winnipeg's top offensive lineman for the last three seasons. He flirted with NFL options over the years but never made the jump.

The Bombers were hoping to add free-agent O-lineman Dominic Picard out of Toronto to offset the loss of LaBatte, but the former Bomber signed with the Riders as well.


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