We’re just four days into the frenzy that is the free agency period, and through that time the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have been mostly sellers, re-signing only their own players.
Coming into Wednesday, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers had 17 players up for free agency, sans Doug Brown who retired at the end of the 2011 season.
From those 16 remaining players, eight have been re-signed, six of those from the offense, while the team has parted ways with three players, losing two to the Edmonton Eskimos.
One of those three was their prized possession, offensive lineman Brendon LaBatte—the club tried extensively to re-sign him, but he wanted to move home and signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Another was a 6'6" receiver by the name of Greg Carr who made defenses tremble with his size and hands.
When asked about losing Carr to Edmonton, General Manager Joe Mack did not seem fazed and went further to suggest there are pieces in place to replace Carr.
But what many of the fans have been visibly upset with has been management’s lack of free agent signings from other teams.
Quite frankly, I am perfectly okay with that. This is a team that one season finished last in the league at 4-14, then turned it around and went to the Grey Cup behind head coach Paul LaPolice.
This is a management team that has, throughout the 2011 season, signed players to the practice roster and extended contracts.
Coming into the 2012 season, the team will retain 37 players from the 2010 roster and 19 players from the 2011 roster. That is 56 players who have gained a large amount of experience through their time with the club and in the league.
There is no question that management will bring in talent throughout training camp to test the qualities of the players on the team now, and to push the veterans to be better than they were yesterday.
Is there a player or two on the market I would have liked to see the club go after? There is no question. Would I have liked to secure the services of Greg Carr or Brendon LaBatte and not see them change teams? Who wouldn’t?
I have found that one key to being successful is putting the right piece in the spot that allows that performer the best chance for success. If you do not have the right pieces in place, you can add all the so-called talent you want but at the end of the day you just have players.
Winnipeg was successful in retaining three potential free-agent quarterbacks and will have several of last season’s offensive playmakers returning in Clarence Denmark, Terrence Edwards, Cory Watson and Chris Garrett.
On the defensive side, the majority of ‘Swaggerville’ will be returning under defensive coach Tim Burke. There will be a new offensive mind in town with the hiring of Gary Crowton.
You look around the league and see teams making trades, such as Toronto and Edmonton with Steven Jyles and Ricky Ray, or Calgary and Hamilton with Henry Burris and Kevin Glenn.
Seeing teams go out and actively sign free agents while Winnipeg sits back and watch may be detrimental and a cause for panic for some fans.
This is the part of free agency that sucks, but I have 100 percent faith in the job that the management team is doing and trust that they will put pieces in place to keep this team competitive for years to come.
I, for one, cannot wait for the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto this season ;)
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