Doling out the dough

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:25 AM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have never spent as much on players as they're spending this season.

And they'd better get used to it.

The CFL has adjusted the salary cap for next season, the first year the new salary system is to be enforced.

Teams will be allowed to spend $4.05 million on players in 2007, up from the $3.8 million that was originally planned.

If that doesn't get your attention, how about this: Bomber president/CEO Lyle Bauer last night revealed the team is spending at least that much this season.

"We're over that," Bauer told the Sun, referring to the $4.05 million cap number. "The majority of teams are over that. We have to keep pace."

As a community-owned franchise, the Bombers have traditionally been at or near the bottom of the list of CFL's big spenders.

Last season, for instance, their player budget was around $3.4 million, while other teams were breaking the $4 million mark.

The fact Winnipeg has boosted spending to that level this season can be directly attributed to the presence of the Grey Cup game here on Nov. 19.

"The good thing is our football team is in a firm position to be able to do that," Bauer said. "Now we're in a position where we can compete. That was obvious in the off-season. And during the season, too."

It actually began on the first day of free agency back in February, when the team signed star linebacker Barrin Simpson, the former B.C. Lion.

DIDN'T HESITATE

It continued when the Bombers picked up defender Kyries Hebert and his healthy contract from the now defunct Ottawa Renegades.

They didn't hesitate to write cheques when they ran into injury trouble along the offensive line, either, signing former NFLers Eric Wilson and Garrick Jones.

Most recently, they beat out Saskatchewan and Edmonton to grab receiver Derick Armstrong, another former NFLer who's bolstered the team's passing attack significantly the last two weeks.

The question is, how will the Bombers be able to continue their free-spending ways in years they don't reap extra profits from the Grey Cup game, expected to bring in $2 million to $3 million.

"That's how," Bauer said, pointing to the east side stands, nearly full for last night's game against the Montreal Alouettes.

The rising salary cap is also a sign the league is in good financial health overall.

The agreement with the players stipulates that 56% of league revenue goes to salaries. So CFL governors are obviously projecting continued revenue growth next season.


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