Charlton off to Detroit

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are about to find out whether linebacker Ike Charlton is replaceable or not.

That's because Charlton, the last starter from the 2006 Bomber squad on the free agent market, signed a contract with the NFL's Detroit Lions yesterday. It's a one-year deal worth the veteran minimum salary of $667,000.

Just two weeks ago, Charlton told the Sun said he was on the verge of re-signing with the Bombers. He even spent the last month watching film of all CFL receivers. His agent and Bombers GM Brendan Taman never got anything done, however.

"It was pretty much a done deal," Charlton said last night from Detroit. "We were just waiting on Brendan to call us back. We texted him and called him, and he never called back.

"I was on my way back, but Brendan never called. ... He gave me the opportunity for someone else to bring me in, because I wasn't going (to the NFL)."

Then the Lions came calling. The workout was set up Detroit defensive backs coach Clayton Lopez, who coached Charlton when they were both with the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders.

Charlton impressed the right people, because the Lions signed him yesterday after three days of workouts.

"They assured me that I won't be just a camp body," Charlton said. "It's basically on me to make that team. So if I go out and perform and make plays, I'll make the team. And that's a good thing."

Bombers defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall, for one, wanted Charlton back in the lineup this season. As the team's starting strong-side linebacker, Charlton finished second on the team with 60 tackles in 2006.

Charlton and the Bombers were far apart financially when negotiations began, but Charlton lowered his demands after Taman made his final offer at the end of February. Taman probably could have signed Charlton a month ago, but he decided to step back until he finished his NFL workouts.

"We've actually planned it for some time to play without him," Taman said last night. "But we would've liked to have him back for continuity.

"He didn't get the initial offer that he wanted, so he took his time, which is his prerogative."

Taman said Chris Martin, the former Hamilton Tiger-Cat whom the Bombers signed in December, could be the leading candidate to replace Charlton at strong-side linebacker.

Charlton hopes Bombers fans understand that signing with the Lions was too glorious of an opportunity to pass up.

"I hope they don't cuss me out," he said. "I would love to come back, though, if something crazy or bizarre happens. Winnipeg would definitely be my first choice."

WINNIPEG-BOUND: The Bombers have agreed to terms with free-agent defensive tackle Jerome Haywood.

The 5-foot-9, 280-pound Los Angeles native had 21 sacks in the last five seasons with the Montreal Alouettes and Ottawa Renegades.

Haywood played under Bombers defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall and defensive line coach Richard Harris in the nation's capital.

The Bombers shipped defensive tackle Ron Warner to the Edmonton Eskimos on Wednesday, so Haywood, Nate Davis and Eric Wilson will battle for the vacant tackle spot next to Doug Brown.


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