November 5, 2012
Bombers focus on free agentsGood chunk of defence could test market
By KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - The defence has been the Bombers backbone for the last several seasons, and now half of the starters on that side of the ball are staring at free agency.
Defensive linemen Jason Vega, Bryant Turner and Fernand Kashama, along with linebacker Marcellus Bowman, and defensive backs Jonathan Hefney and Johnny Sears have all played out the option years of their contracts. If they don’t sign new deals before Feb. 15, they’ll be able to test the CFL waters.
“I would think we would want to bring most of them back,” head coach Tim Burke said. “The likelihood of us bringing everybody back is not a sure thing, by any stretch of the imagination. There might be one or two who might slip away, but certainly we’re going to make an effort.”
Vega has had talks with assistant GM Ross Hodgkinson and plans to speak to GM Joe Mack before heading home for the off-season.
“I’d love to be back in this city with this organization, but there are a lot of things that have to get figured out in the mean time,” he said. “We obviously need to bring in a defensive co-ordinator, so we gotta hammer out some coaching situations and figure out what’s best for me and best for the team.”
Vega said whomever the new defensive co-ordinator is could play a role in his decision, and it sounds like it wouldn’t be a problem if Casey Creehan returned to Winnipeg.
“Me and Casey had a wonderful relationship,” Vega said. “He was probably one of the better coaches I’ve ever had.”
Turner, who had six sacks this season, said talks between him and the club are “progressing nicely.” He hasn’t ruled out taking a peek at the NFL, however.
“I never gave it a chance coming out of college. I came straight here,” Turner said. “So I kind of just wanted to see where I stood more than anything. That could change. You never know.”
Turner believes good things are in store for the Blue and Gold.
“Big things are going to happen for Winnipeg soon, especially with the new stadium,” he said. “Everything’s going up.”
Sears, who might need off-season surgery on his left knee, is also keen to return. He played many positions on defence this year and wouldn’t mind being in just one spot next season, although he said he will always go where needed. Burke said either Sears and Demond Washington are the front-runners to play strong-side (SAM) linebacker next season, and Sears would be willing to do it if he re-signs.
“My love is on the (corner),” Sears said. “It’s where I’m used to, but playing the SAM, I know it’s just more demanding. It’s not a bad thing. It was just a little different. But if it’s going to take us to the Grey Cup and we got the same DBs, I could do it.
“I could do it, because I feel comfortable with them guys and I know they’re going to handle their jobs. So if I can be the winning piece, I’d love to be that.”
The only starter on the offensive side of the ball who is eligible to go free is slotback Clarence Denmark, who had 649 receiving yards and one touchdown this season.
“It’s always good to come back,” Denmark said. “I love Winnipeg. I love playing here. It’s been real good to me. If they want me back, I want to be back.”
The following Bombers are eligible to hit free agency next February:
DB Johnny Sears*
CB Deon Beasley
DB Jonathan Hefney*
LB Marcellus Bowman*
DE Fernand Kashama*
DT Bryant Turner*
DE Jason Vega*
QB Justin Goltz
RB Chris Garrett
RB Carl Volny
SB Clarence Denmark*
* started majority of 2012 games