Show them the money

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

The buck often stopped with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defence in 2006.

The buck will now have to do a little bit of talking if that defence is going to remain intact for 2007.

Five of the 12 defensive starters are up for free agency in February, including defensive tackle Doug Brown, linebacker Ike Charlton, cornerback Stanford Samuels and defensive backs Anthony Malbrough and Kelly Malveaux.

It's highly unlikely that all five will be back with the CFL's salary management system kicking in later this month.

"It'll be real interesting to see what happens this year," Brown said. "I've never made it to free agency before, but that doesn't mean it's not going to happen this year.

"I've spent my entire career here. I'd hope everything could work out. But you can't have any illusions, either."

Charlton came to training camp expecting to be a halfback, but he was converted to strong-side linebacker and played well. He would love to return to the NFL, but he's happy in Winnipeg.

"To be on the honest side, I've got five years of NFL experience, and I just played for some real small money," Charlton said. "So it's a case where I think that if I'm compensated right, to where I'm comfortable ...

"You've got guys on this team that are making big money, and I'm asked to do more than they do. But it's not really about that. It's about being happy, and the main thing is I'm happy here.

"It's in their hands. I'm quite sure they would want me to come back."

Samuels showed the ability to be a shut-down cornerback in his first two CFL seasons, but he's also been hit hard by the injury bug. He, too, will be looking for a little more cash.

"Rookie contracts are no fun," he said.

Samuels, like middle linebacker Barrin Simpson, believes keeping the core of the defence together is a must. He would also like to remain a member of it.

"There's no better feeling than being on a great defence and being a main contributor," said Samuels, who had three interceptions this season. "Defence always give you a chance to get a W.

"Offence can only do so much at certain times. But if (the opposition) can't get on the board, you always have a chance."

The future of defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall could also play a role in what the aforementioned players do. It's believed Marshall, who was the runner-up to Doug Berry in Winnipeg's coaching search last winter, will garner some interest around the league.

Charlton, for one, will keep a close eye on Marshall this off-season.

"I'm definitely thinking about that," he said. "I like what he had me doing in the defence. (But) if a new coach comes in and does the same thing and uses me the same way, I'm here."


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