Fourteen set to become free agents

KIRK PENTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:23 AM ET

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers roster could undergo a major renovation this winter, as a whopping 14 players are eligible to become free agents in February.

Eleven of them started for the Blue and Gold this year, including three East Division all-stars in running back Fred Reid, defensive back Kelly Malveaux and defensive end Gavin Walls.

Other starters who have played out their option years are offensive linemen Alexandre Gauthier, Dominic Picard and Matt O'Meara, linebackers Cam Hall and Ike Charlton and defensive lineman Jerome Haywood.

Offensive lineman Kyle Koch, a starter who finished the year on the injured list, and long snapper Chris Cvetkovic, arguably the best in the business, are also eligible to become free in February.

The Bombers had nine potential free agents last off-season and GM Brendan Taman signed eight of them. Only Adrian Baird left, bolting for Edmonton.

With so many players set to go on the market in three months, it's all but guaranteed some of them will be elsewhere next season.

"The nature of pro sport is that you might not see some of these guys back next year," quarterback Kevin Glenn said. "You've just got to (take) it in stride. It's the nature of the game, and everyone knows that."

Several players on Saturday said a solid core is in place and would like to see it remain intact.

"If we can keep this nucleus together for a whole season, it won't start off like it started this year, that's for damn sure," cornerback Stanford Samuels said.

THUNDER LIKES LIGHTNING: Reid is a free agent, but his backfield partner, Joe Smith, would like to see him in Blue and Gold next season so they can share the rushing load once again.

"It's a good tandem we have here," Smith said. "So I'm looking forward to coming back for camp and getting more familiar with the offence and more familiar with the guys, the way they're going to be blocking and everything.

"Once we do that, it'll be something to watch next year."

THREE'S A CROWD: The Bombers have three starting middle linebackers under contract going into the off-season, so something will have to give.

Zeke Moreno, who was acquired from Hamilton in September, started every game after his arrival. That prevented Barrin Simpson from returning to his usual post when he recovered last month from a torn pectoral muscle.

The man who filled for Simpson, rookie Joe Lobendahn, is also under contract for 2009, although the coaching staff has said he can also play outside linebacker.

The same can't be said for Moreno and Simpson, so it's likely one of them won't be around next year.

Moreno doesn't know how the situation will play out.

"Right now it's kind of hard to look that far ahead," he said.

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COULD BE FREE

The list of 14 Winnipeg Blue Bombers who are eligible to become free agents in February:

- RB Graeme Bell

- *LB Ike Charlton

- *LS Chris Cvetkovic

- *OL Alexandre Gauthier

- *LB Cam Hall

- *DT Jerome Haywood

- *DB Kelly Malveaux

- DE Shawn Mayne

- OL Matt O'Meara

- *OL Dominic Picard

- *RB Fred Reid

- *DE Gavin Walls

- *OL Kyle Koch

- DT Jon Oosterhuis

* - denotes starter


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