Stoddard at home with Blue

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:40 AM ET

Jamie Stoddard wanted to test the free-agent waters, but as it turned out, he never even took a quick dip.

Stoddard officially re-upped with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers yesterday, two days after becoming a CFL free agent, but he actually reached an agreement with the team before the signing deadline on Wednesday.

"I was always getting a vibe that we were close," Bombers general manager Brendan Taman said. "The deadline sort of heated that up."

Stoddard, a reliable 28-year-old non-import receiver, indicated last week he wanted to gauge the interest in him around the league. At the same time, he said he liked what was going on in Winnipeg -- with the hiring of coaches and signings of some key players -- and was ready to establish roots in the city he has called home for each of his six football seasons.

"Wherever I sign is the city where I'm going to make my home," Stoddard said last week from Edmonton, where he works as a substitute teacher during the off-season.

That being said, Stoddard signed a standard one-year-plus-option deal with the Bombers but did get a promise from Taman to work on a contract extension in the coming year.

"Over the course of the last five or six years, he is one of the guys who gets under-appreciated and under-rated," Taman said of Stoddard, a 6-foot, 190-pound native of Richmond, B.C.

"He's one of the guys who is special for us. He is unique in that he holds the ball on field goals, plays special teams and is a solid receiver. He's one of those foot soldiers who help you win games."

Stoddard had 30 catches (fourth best on the team) for 431 yards and two touchdowns last year and finished fifth on the team in special teams tackles with eight. He has averaged 25 catches and 400 yards per season in six years as a Bomber and has not missed a game since 2000.

Meanwhile, Taman said he spoke three times yesterday to import receiver-kick returner Keith Stokes, who became a free agent Wednesday.

"We're still an option there," Taman said. "He wanted to check out his options after the 15th, and he's doing that right now."

The B.C. Lions, Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Alouettes are believed to be interested in the electrifying Stokes, who turned down a $130,000 per annum offer from the Bombers last fall.

If the Bombers can't sign Stokes, they could go after another receiver, like Elijah Thurmon, who played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders last year. Or, they could put the money toward another high-profile signing, like the one that made middle linebacker Barrin Simpson a Bomber on Thursday.

It's no secret the team would like to sign free agent safety Richard Karikari, who starred for Montreal last season, but affording him is a different story.

"It's always a minute-to-minute process," Taman said. "If Keith leaves, that would open up more money for someone else."

Karikari is still exploring some NFL options and is not likely to sign with any CFL team in the next few weeks. Even then, there will be stiff Canadian competition for his services.

Also exploring the market is Canadian receiver Gilles Colon, whom the Bombers would like to re-sign.

"I'd like to have Gilles back because we haven't had a chance yet to see what he can really do," Taman said. 


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