Blue pull a fast one

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:52 AM ET

Kyries Hebert was about "an hour away" from signing with an NFL team yesterday, and at least one CFL squad had already put an offer on the table.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Winnipeg Blue Bombers GM Brendan Taman pulled a fast one, claiming Hebert off CFL waivers just five minutes before he would have become a free agent both north and south of the border.

Hebert, a top-notch outside linebacker and special teams stalwart, was not claimed in last week's dispersal draft of Ottawa Renegades players. The thinking was his big salary and his arrest stemming from a domestic dispute in January were the reasons he was passed over.

He was scheduled to become a free agent at 3 p.m. yesterday, but Taman decided to take on his contract -- and his talents -- at 2:55 after local immigration lawyers told him Hebert likely will be able to enter Canada this spring.

The move shocked Hebert, his agent and likely several other CFL GMs as well.

Hebert was in Cincinnati yesterday, apparently ready to sign with the NFL's Bengals, when his agent, J.R. Rickert, got a call from another NFL club at 3:15 p.m.

Rickert expected the call was to schedule a workout with that team, but the caller told Rickert that the Bombers had claimed Hebert.

"We're a little stunned right now," Rickert said last night from Florida. "That's the best way to describe it.

"... It's pretty unfortunate, because I'm pretty sure Kyries was going to get an NFL offer."

Rickert, who said the Indianapolis Colts were among the other NFL squads interested in the 6-foot-2, 217-pound Louisiana native, also plans to talk to the CFL about whether his client's rights were "adhered to."

When reached by the Sun last night, Hebert refused comment.

Meanwhile, Rickert said one CFL team had already put an offer on the table, even though his client wasn't going to be free until 3 o'clock yesterday. Both the Montreal Alouettes and Hamilton Tiger-Cats had arranged for Hebert to visit them soon, Rickert said.

Coincidentally, the Tiger-Cats were the only other CFL team that could have claimed Hebert ahead of the Bombers.

Taman made no apologies for his last-minute move.

"Oh well. Too bad for them," said Taman. "It's not done to spite other teams. It's just to make our team better. If that's another bonus out of it, that's good, too."

The Bombers will have to repay a $40,000 bonus Hebert had already received from the Renegades, and they'll also fork over a $25,000 bonus he was due this past weekend.

Hebert's base salary this year will be $75,000, bringing his 2006 total to $140,000. It's believed Hebert has a five-year contract, including an option, that will pay him $150,000 in 2007 and includes $10,000 increments each season after that.

Taman, who has now replaced Ryland Wickman and Lamar McGriggs with Barrin Simpson and Hebert this off-season, believes it will be well worth the cash.

"He's probably the best special teams players in the league -- bar none -- to start with," said Taman. "... He's everything we've been looking for in the last two or three years at (linebacker)."

Despite Hebert's arrest on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and evading arrest, Bombers head coach Doug Berry said he had no reservations about claiming Hebert after consulting with defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall, who coached Hebert last season in Ottawa.

"I'm not asking Kyries to date my daughter," said Berry. "I'm asking Kyries to go out and be a football player."


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