Bottom-line bungling in Winnipeg

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:28 PM ET

Only one team exceeded the CFL salary cap in 2009, and it was one of the two that missed the playoffs.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers overspent the cap by nearly $45,000, despite the fact they won just seven games.

“Those two things should not line up proportionately on the graph,” Bomber president Jim Bell, the team’s resident capologist, said Tuesday. “We’re not proud of it. We’re not happy that we’re over. But we will pay that much more attention to it in 2010.”

The league has fined the Bombers $44,687, the same amount the team overspent.

It’s no surprise the Bombers went over the $4.2-million limit, as more than $300,000 went to players who were paid off-season bonuses, only to be cut or traded by first-year head coach Mike Kelly.

Some of those contracts, like that of offensive lineman Dan Goodspeed ($88,000 bonus), were the product of the regime of former GM Brendan Taman.

Some, like running back Joe Smith’s ($40,000), were deals swung under Kelly’s watch.

The Bombers also paid receiver Derick Armstrong an estimated $50,000 before Kelly banished him after one game, and forked out some $50,000 in deferred salary to Milt Stegall, who was retired.

The financial bungling forced the Bombers to take drastic measures during the season to avoid paying significantly more in player salaries and, eventually, fines.

Quarterback Stefan LeFors was forced to take a $60,000 pay cut, for instance.

Other players, like O-lineman Kelly Bates, were placed on the nine-game injury list, where salaries don’t count against the cap.

Receiver Arjei Franklin was left on the nine-game list, even though he was ready to return from an injury earlier.

Under the CFL’s salary management system, teams that exceed the cap by up to $100,000 are fined dollar for dollar.

The fine doubles for violations between $100,000 and $300,000, and the team also loses a draft pick.

Bell admits the Bombers were well on their way to that level of punishment early last season.

“We were on pace to be higher,” he said. “You get $100,000 over, now you’re affecting your draft picks. It’s more than a financial thing — now you’re affecting your future.”

Bell says management and new coach Paul LaPolice are working together to more closely monitor the cap going into training camp this year.

“You don’t want to spend your full $4.2 million by the time you break camp,” Bell said. “You want to leave a little wiggle room... not to dump the Brinks truck right before Game 1.”

Incoming board chair Bill Watchorn says pre-season bonus payments have been cut drastically.

“We’re not doing it to the extent, maybe 20% of what we paid last year,” Watchorn said. “And to guys we know we want.”

The spending limit will once again be $4.2 million this year.

Last year, Saskatchewan was the only team to exceed the cap.

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca


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