Bombers must be 'smart'

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:43 AM ET

On the eve of becoming free agents, a number of Winnipeg Blue Bombers were issued 11th-hour contract offers.

But none of them were expected to bite before last night's deadline, Bomber GM Brendan Taman said late yesterday afternoon.

"I tried to contact them all to give them some sense of where they are financially before they hit the market," Taman said. "But that's sort of normal procedure."

Wide receiver/cornerback Markus Howell, linebacker Ryland Wickman, defensive lineman Jon Oosterhuis, defensive back Tim Carter and centre Cory Annett were among those who received those proposals. And Taman was still trying to reach defensive end Tyson St. James last night.

Howell got his offer late Monday.

"It was OK but not quite what I expected," Howell said. "A lot of the money was tied up in performances but being a six-year guy, I thought I deserved more than that. But I've got to hammer this out and you want to find what your market value is out there."

Yet, Howell would prefer to return.

"Winnipeg is definitely my first choice and I told (head) coach (Jim) Daley that before Christmas," he said. "This is my hometown and we'll see if Winnipeg will meet me halfway."

Although Taman was not allowed to contact any players from other CFL teams about to become free agents until late last night, he did check with the league office when it was first reported that wide receiver/kick returner Wane McGarity had been released by Calgary. Turns out that the Stampeders just told McGarity that he would not be offered a new pact, so Taman had to stay hands-off until today. A number of current Bombers played with McGarity in Calgary and Daley coached him there two years ago.

"He does have some familiarity here," Taman said. "But until I talk dollars with him, that would be where I feel good about it (possibility of signing him)."

Taman is expected to contact McGarity today. McGarity could not be reached for comment.

Although both defensive backs Bo Lewis (B.C.) and Milo Lewis (Calgary) have officially been released from their respective teams, Taman was not about to jump into negotiations with them.

ON THE RADAR

"They're both on the radar screen, but it will depend on what happens with free agency first," he said.

Winnipeg's priorities on the free agent market are at receiver, defensive back and offensive line, Taman confirmed. But he did not rule out other positions. Realistically, Taman hopes to sign about three free agents.

"We've got to be smart and get guys in who can help us improve," he said.


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