Bombers want Bauman

CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon introduces Chris Bauman as the CFL's first round overall draft pick on...

CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon introduces Chris Bauman as the CFL's first round overall draft pick on May 2, 2007. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are now interested in the Brandon-born receiver, after he was cut by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. (Winnipeg Sun)

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:05 PM ET

A big, talented Canadian receiver has hit the CFL marketplace, and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers say they’re interested.

But are they interested enough?

Or is being late out of the gate going to cost them a chance to upgrade where they desperately need to?

Chris Bauman is a former first-overall draft pick who’s been a little slow to develop but who still has “Canadian starter” written all over him.

He’s 6-foot-4, 212-pounds and was headed for free agency, but got his early release, along with starting O-lineman Alex Gauthier, from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Monday.

Bauman caught 78 passes in his first two seasons, and although he’s tailed off since, losing his starting job and making just 36 grabs the last two years, he’s still just 26.

Down the stretch last season, he was on fire, with a 100-yard game late in the season against Montreal, 95 against B.C. in the regular-season finale and another 100-plus in the playoffs versus Toronto.

Anybody else thinking the Bombers should be all over this guy?

This team is thinner than Paul LaPolice’s hair at the Canadian receiver spot.

I mean, when Brock Ralph is your go-to guy ...

Here’s the kicker: Bauman’s from Brandon, and we hear he’d love to play close to home.

Yet the Bombers, as of Tuesday afternoon, hadn’t contacted Bauman or his agent.

Now, it’s true Bauman hasn’t cleared waivers, yet. And Winnipeg, based on its league-worst 4-14 record last season, does get first shot at claiming him, which would give the Bombers a chance to talk to him before any team could sign him.

But that hasn’t stopped other teams from already letting Bauman know they’d love to have him.

We’ve heard five teams are already involved, that one sounds really interested (translation: is talking good money), and that Bauman is wondering, “Where the heck is Winnipeg?”

Assistant GM Ross Hodgkinson says the Bombers are planning to talk to Bauman to “get a feel for the situation.” The team is also interested in Gauthier, another Canadian, as he could be a ratio-changer at tackle.

“And because of the waiver procedure ... it gives us some time to not necessarily have to make a hasty decision, which is nice for a change,” Hodgkinson said. “It gives us and everyone else an opportunity to kind of evaluate where we want to go.”

In Bauman’s case, some teams already know.

Nobody waits for the official opening of free agency, Feb. 15, and nobody waits for the waiver process. They put out feelers, make contact, sometimes even verbal offers.

It sounds like that’s what’s happened with Bauman, although his agent, Darren Gill, downplayed that notion, saying only “there are definitely people who want to speak to him when he is available.”

As for wanting to play close to home, Gill is keeping that card close to his vest, too.

“Home or East or West, I don’t think he cares,” Gill said. “The objective for him is just the right opportunity. He’s just looking for a good place to play. He wants to get on the field and contribute. I don’t think he had that (in Hamilton).”

The Bombers could give him that.

But it’s going to take some cold, hard cash, too.

Are they willing to be right in there?

“I don’t know what being right in there is going to take,” Hodgkinson said. “At this point it’s difficult to say. Players don’t always get what they’re worth. They get what they negotiate.”

True.

But it never hurts to be the first to knock on the guy’s door.

The Bombers have missed that chance.

Now they’ll have to play catch-up.

Without a good Canadian receiver, that’s never easy.


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