Bombers twiddle thumbs

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:44 AM ET

So let's see if we've got this straight.

One of the top Canadian players in the CFL, receiver Jason Clermont, is released. And the Winnipeg Blue Bombers aren't interested.

Am I missing something here?

B.C. Lions boss Wally Buono released Clermont because he wants a different type of player (read, faster) in that position.

Buono has so much respect for Clermont that instead of putting him on the trading block, which would lead to plenty of publicity and uncertainty, he just released him, giving him lots of time to find a new team.

Clermont isn't just another player. Big as a linebacker, tough as boot leather and competitive as a thoroughbred, he's averaged 68 receptions for 913 yards over the last five seasons, two of which were injury-shortened.

Think the Bombers could use someone who makes the tough catches over the middle?

ATTITUDE

Almost as important as his ability, Clermont brings an attitude to a locker-room. He's a leader.

He's also what they call a ratio-breaker -- a Canadian who can play a spot typically reserved for imports, allowing his team to use an import elsewhere.

Hmmm. A leader and a ratio-breaker.

Two things the Bombers have been starved for, no?

This is a team that wanted to play an import at safety last season, but couldn't.

Yet, they're about as interested in Clermont as they are in acquiring the measles.

Oh, GM Brendan Taman paid the usual lip service to the idea of going after him, saying he'd sniff around.

But in the same breath he doubted the Bombers would be able to afford his salary demands (he makes well over $150,000).

While Taman twiddled his thumbs, Saskatchewan's Eric Tillman and Calgary's John Hufnagel -- the GMs whose teams have won the last two Grey Cups -- got up off their laurels and got to work. Clermont is currently weighing their offers.

What's wrong with this picture?

We've got a team that's mired in the longest championship drought in the CFL, with a new head coach who'll no doubt want to change at least part of the offence, acting like they're the defending Grey Cup champs.

Shouldn't it be Hufnagel and the Stamps who are leery about adding a new star to their locker-room chemistry?

And since when don't the Bombers have the money?

They dumped Charles Roberts a few months back.

They're finished paying Milt Stegall, aside perhaps from one more flight to Winnipeg to officially ride off into the sunset.

And aren't they thanking linebacker Barrin Simpson for his services and wishing him well in his future endeavors? Ditto Matt Sheridan?

By my count, that's four six-figure salaries -- at least $600,000 -- lopped off the payroll.

Younger, cheaper players like Joe Lobendahn, Fred Reid, Romby Bryant and Brendon Labatte are taking their place.

"Our cap warrants us to deal with our (free agents) first," Taman told Sun Media.

Wait a minute, isn't that exactly what this team's off-season strategy was a year ago?

Get Sheridan, Dan Goodspeed and Tom Canada re-signed and the rest will take care of itself, Taman assured us.

How well did that work out?

Goodspeed recovered from a slow start to lead the offensive line, but Sheridan and Canada were busts, not even playing, but getting paid, by the end of the season.

The Bombers were so impressed with Sheridan they quietly questioned his commitment when he was hurt, so enamoured with Canada's lack of production they tried to ship him to Hamilton.

Look, we're not arguing the need to re-sign people like Reid, Kelly Malveaux and Dominic Picard.

But this team needs new blood like a patient in heart surgery.

The fact Mike Kelly, the new football boss, and Taman, his right-hand man, don't think the infusion of Clermont would add life to a dying offence is baffling, to say the least.


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