Joe Fleming is not even a free agent yet but some CFL teams may be gearing up for a bidding war.
The import defensive lineman was the key component that the Winnipeg Blue Bombers acquired in a multi-player swap with the Calgary Stampeders on the weekend. But before Calgary dealt him, the B.C. Lions made the Stamps an offer for him, one they obviously refused.
Fleming reportedly makes $170,000 per annum -- which is rather rich for the Bomber blood -- and he officially becomes a free agent on Feb. 15, 2005.
"Joe is going to be free at the end of the season," B.C. head coach/GM Wally Buono told the Vancouver Sun. "There are no guarantees that he will sign with anybody. If I'm interested in him today as a roster player, I think there's no question I'd be interested in him again."
Buono, of course, coached Fleming when Calgary won the 2001 Grey Cup.
"I think there would be a few teams interested in Joe," Winnipeg GM Brendan Taman said yesterday. "But we're hoping to have him signed before that."
Fleming has expressed his willingness to remain a Bomber but has left those negotiations for another time. Taman has also said he will deal with the matter in January.
Although the Bombers saved a bundle by sending quarterback Khari Jones and his $300,000-plus pact to Calgary, reports that Jones was due a big bonus in December are untrue, Taman said.
STILL LOOKING: The CFL trade deadline is Oct. 13 and the Taman may not be done dealing.
"Before the 13th, we're going to try to talk to some people but that doesn't mean anything will get done," said Taman, who was apparently also trying to get an offensive lineman out of Calgary.
"Right now, there is nothing imminent but if something develops, we'd consider it," said Bomber head coach Jim Daley.
And you can bet that Taman will keep a close eye on B.C.'s quarterbacking situation come winter as neither Dave Dickenson nor Casey Printers is likely to be satisfied as a backup next season.
SWAC ATTACK: Bomber DE Elfrid Payton was named CFL lineman of the week after he recorded two sacks, five tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown during Winnipeg's 47-25 loss to Montreal.
"I remember one time they weren't giving it to guys on losing teams," he said "It's always good to be recognized when you do something well but that's an individual thing and this is a team game. I would be happier if we won the game. I'm trying to get into the playoffs. Two points is more important."
HASHMARKS: Neither WR Kamau Peterson (knee) nor S Joe Morgan (shoulder) practised yesterday. Receiver Gilles Colon, a non-import, took a lot of turns with the starting offence, with Markus Howell also getting a number of reps. Howell, however, finished practice at CB ... DL Denny Fortney (ankle) has returned to practice ... Ex-Bomber QB Tom Denison will dress as Calgary's third-stringer when the Stamps play in Toronto tonight.