Discount Bombers

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:13 PM ET

One thing is becoming crystal clear about the people who run your Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

They plan on taking the slow and steady approach to improving a team that was a CFL-worst 4-14 last season.

Instead of making a splash in free agency, it’s starting to look like these guys might not go anywhere near the pool. At least, not the deep end.

Sign a Canadian who might be an instant upgrade? Nope, they’d rather develop the ones they have.

Because, horror of horrors, a free agent might be asking more than he’s worth.

And in the buckled-down, Walmart world of the Big Blue, the last thing you want to do is overpay.

At least, that’s the feeling I get listening to GM Joe Mack and head coach Paul LaPolice.

Thursday, the coach made himself available for questioning, most of which revolved around free agent Canadians like receiver Chris Bauman, O-lineman Alex Gauthier and defensive back Donovan Alexander.

Actually, you can scratch Alexander’s name from that list, as Edmonton GM Eric Tillman swooped in to sign the Winnipeg native soon after his release by Saskatchewan.

The Bombers obviously didn’t think much of Alexander, a sometime starter for the Riders, or his price.

“We were contacted by his agent, and saw some of the numbers they were throwing,” LaPolice said.

Then there’s Bauman, a 6-foot-4 target from Brandon who oozes potential.

After four seasons with Hamilton that saw him catch 78 passes the first two years, just 36 the next two, Bauman, still just 26, was released this week in advance of the Feb. 15 startup date, giving him an early start on free agency.

We know teams were already contacting his agent as far back as the East Division semifinal, where he posted a 100-yard-plus game against Toronto.

Yet the Bombers, needing Canadian pass catchers as much as anyone, didn’t contact Bauman until Wednesday, when Coach LaPo gave him a call.

And the coach doesn’t sound particularly enamoured with the prospect of adding the big, homegrown target to his offence.

“You would like to always improve your Canadian depth,” LaPolice began. “But ... he has to be in a reasonable range. And if he’s looking to be the highest paid non-import in the CFL, or one of the highest paid, I don’t know if that’s the right move.”

Geez, hope the coach was a little more enthused over the phone with the kid.

Because with an opening line like that, I can see Bauman’s agent getting right back on the horn with some of the other more aggressive teams that have been sweet-talking him.

There’ve been reports Bauman’s agent is asking for as much as $125,000 per. Not sure I believe that, but if it’s true, that’s his job.

If the Bombers let every agent’s starting position scare them away, they’re sunk.

Thing is, Bauman would love to play here.

“Obviously all my friends and family are there. It’s a big factor,” he told the Sun from Florida. “I played the first half of my career in Hamilton, away from everybody. But there are other factors, too.”

Like money, of course. And whether he’ll get a good shot at starting.

I’d tell him he has a great shot, here. How couldn’t he, with incumbents Brock Ralph and Aaron Hargreaves, who don’t remind anybody of Joe Poplawski and Rick House?

Asked about re-signing their own free agents, coach LaPo again said it’s got to be at a reasonable price.

You’ve heard of the free agent feeding frenzy?

These guys nibble like supermodels on the day of a bikini shoot.

“The problem with free agency ... sometimes it turns into a bidding war and some of those guys get overvalued,” Coach LaPo concluded.

That pretty much says it all.


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