WINNIPEG - After the first day of free agency, the story was more about the fish that got away than the ones that the Blue Bombers could catch.
Sure, they kept some of their bigger fish in the Winnipeg pond, but they lost three players within 24 hours of free agency and were unable to hook one of their own.
The Bombers lost both import wide receiver Greg Carr and non-import defensive lineman Don Oramasionwu to the Edmonton Eskimos and Canadian offensive lineman Brendon LaBatte to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“If you remember last year, people were in a tizzy about not getting a couple of players who were signed to big contracts and who were cut this past year,” Bombers GM Joe Mack said Thursday. “If you look at our track record over the last year, we did get to the Grey Cup and we have brought in a fair amount of talent and we’ll continue to do so.”
Mack then talked about the bigger fish kept in the pool to at least maintain status quo.
“Yes, we did lose a couple of players we would have liked to keep but we re-signed all three of our quarterbacks, which was the biggest issue for me, personally,” Mack said. “We re-signed Ian Logan, Brady Browne, a pair of Canadian backs. We re-signed (offensive linemen) Steve Morley, Glenn January so, if we had to line up and play a game tomorrow, we’d be very competitive.”
Mack added that the Bombers did recruit the likes of import wide receiver Clarence Denmark, tailback Chris Garrett and a number of import defensive linemen last season.
“So, if everybody takes a moment, takes a deep breath and realizes that we’re still going to be very competitive,” Mack said.
Mack, however, simply shrugged off losing Oramasionwu.
“We really appreciate the effort that Don made with us and we wish him all the best in his career,” he said.
DALES ON WAY?
There is already speculation that the Bombers are on the verge of signing free agent punter Burke Dales.
“Um, no comment at this point,” Mack replied to a question about Winnipeg’s interest in him.
Mack, meanwhile, has cast his fishing rod out there.
“We did touch base with an agent on one player (Picard) but he had already decided where he wanted to go,” said Mack, who was likely referring to former Bomber centre Dominic Picard, who also signed with Saskatchewan.
Mack also contacted the agent for non-import receiver Andy Fantuz, but got the impression the former Rider wants “to go back East.”
It is also believed that the Bombers have some interest in Canadian free agent O-lineman Tim O’Neill.
“Now, we’ll let the dust settle and see who’s out there and see what kind of ability they have to match what their salary demands are,” Mack said. “Our fans have to understand, in the age of the salary cap, there are parameters with what you can and can’t do. Not only do you have to look at the talent of the player but also at the position they play. “