It seems just a matter of time before the Blue Bombers give themselves a much-coveted Christmas present.
Although gifted defensive lineman Joe Fleming is leaning towards re-signing with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, he has yet to ink an official CFL contract. But that could happen before the week is out.
"I still haven't made up my mind," Fleming said when reached at his Boston area home yesterday. "But the pieces are coming together well. I still have to make sure everything works out but I don't see anything, right now, that would prevent me from returning."
Fleming, 33, added that he would like to finish his career here.
"Nothing has been done but we are moving forward," said the import who had previously played for the Bombers in the late '90s.
Fleming, who was the key component in the multi-player deal that sent quarterback Khari Jones to Calgary late in the season, is due to become a free agent on Feb. 15, but indicated that he is unlikely to go through that whole process again. And the fact that the Bombers re-hired Jim Daley as head coach is another aspect that will likely lure him back.
"I have a lot of respect for coach Daley and the organization," said Fleming, who named one of his two dogs (Labs) after Daley, who also coached him in Calgary.
"Certainly we're interested in Joe coming back but it's not a done deal," said Daley, who has been courting the 6-foot-3, 285-pound import. "We are making progress on it. We have been in regular contact for the last few weeks and when we traded for him, we knew he had a great affinity for Winnipeg. And I have had a good working relationship with Joe."
Bombers GM Brendan Taman did confirm that he has made Fleming a multi-year contract offer, believed to be in the same $160,000-$170,000 range the CFL's 2003 Most Outstanding Defensive Player was making in Calgary.
"I would say talks are progressing and there's nothing to indicate he's not coming back," Taman said. "But it's not like we're at the point where it's, 'Wow, Joe's coming back.'"
The Bombers, however, would be left with egg on their faces if Fleming does not return after they risked a starting quarterback to acquire the all-star.
When Fleming does sign, his friend, fullback Scott Regimbald, is sure to follow. Regimbald, who was acquired from Calgary in the same trade, is also due to become a free agent Feb. 15.
Daley also hinted that he would like to have import defensive end Elfrid Payton back, despite his age (37).
"I think Elfrid still has a year or two left in him," he said. "He was a leader for us and played the run very well. The way he finished the year, he's one of the guys we're going to take a long look at."