Canada stays with Bombers

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Tom Canada won't be looking around for a new team. (Winnipeg Sun File/Marcel...

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Tom Canada won't be looking around for a new team. (Winnipeg Sun File/Marcel Cretain)

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:13 AM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have locked up one of their key free agents and appear to be the preferred choice of another.

The CFL club signed defensive lineman Tom Canada to a new contract over the weekend, just a few days before the import was about to hit the open market.

Meanwhile, sturdy non-import receiver Jamie Stoddard says it's possible he could sign a new contract before he officially becomes a free agent Wednesday at 10:59 p.m.

"We're in talks right now," Stoddard said from his off-season home in Edmonton. "We're not too far apart. Whether or not I sign before the deadline, I don't know, but I really like what they have done so far this off-season. I could be signing as early as (today) or I could be waiting just because it is so close to free agency."

'THE PLACE TO BE'

Some of what Stoddard said seems to be a common theme. Players are excited about the fact the team hired head coach Doug Berry to replace the fired Jim Daley and surrounded him with experienced assistant coaches like defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall, defensive line coach Richard Harris, offensive co-ordinator Mike Gibson and receivers coach Bob Dyce.

"Winnipeg is going to be the place to be," Canada said from California. "It's very encouraging. I love playing in the blue and gold, and I just really want to experience the opportunity of having some success in a Bomber uniform."

Canada, 26, registered 16 sacks in his first two seasons in Winnipeg and likely would have attracted interest from other teams had he chosen to become a free agent.

"I was going to consider other options if they hadn't done something with the coaching staff," he said. "I really enjoyed Winnipeg the last couple of years despite what was going on on the field."

Stoddard, 28, had 30 receptions for 431 yards and two touchdowns last year. His role with the team has always been limited in Winnipeg, but he would have no qualms about returning for more of the same.

"With free agency, it's sort of just curiosity more than anything," he said. "I like what Winnipeg is doing, and (general manager) Brendan (Taman) and I have a good relationship, so there will be a phone call taking place."

It's believed Taman has also come to terms with offensive lineman Jermese Jones, who also would have become a free agent this week.

The Bombers, who have already lost free-agent punter Jon Ryan to the Green Bay Packers of the NFL, are expected to be very active when the full market opens up this week.

Among the potential free agents the Bombers would like to re-sign are return specialist/receiver Keith Stokes, non-import receiver Gilles Colon and non-import linebacker Neil McKinlay.

Last year's CFL rookie of the year Gavin Walls, a defensive lineman, is an option-year player who will remain Bombers property if he doesn't sign an NFL contract before Wednesday night. He recently said he was leaning toward returning to Winnipeg, assuming Taman gives him a raise.

Taman could not be reached for comment yesterday.

AROUND THE CFL: The B.C. Lions have lost cornerback Dante Marsh to the NFL. He signed a two-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs ... The Montreal Alouettes have cut loose backup quarterback Ted White. The three-year veteran plans to talk to the Bombers, who employ his former offensive co-ordinator (Berry) as head coach and the B.C. Lions, who are in the market for a backup after Casey Printers bolted to the NFL ... The Toronto Argonauts have not yet finalized their deal with ex-Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Eric Crouch, although they are expected to do so in the next few days.


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