Blue Bombers sign Jamaal Westerman

Jets vs. Panthers

The Blue Bombers have signed defensive lineman Jamaal Westerman.

Westerman spent the past six seasons as a journeyman in the NFL, spending time with the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Cleveland Browns. Born in Brooklyn, Westerman is considered a national player by CFL rules because he lived in Brampton, Ontario while attending high school. His brother, Jabar Westerman, plays defensive tackle for the BC Lions.

The Westerman signing is quite the coup for the Bombers. There were very few plug-and-play national starters available in free agency back in February (Keenan MacDougall, Brad Sinopoli, Chris Rwabukamba, Spencer Watt, Sam Giguere, Greg Wojt, and Sam Hurl are the only projected national starters who signed with new teams this off-season, none of whom would be mistaken for truly dominant players), making the Westerman signing possibly the most impactful of the entire off-season.

Though Westerman will have to tailor his game to the CFL (he played almost exclusively linebacker in the NFL, while he’ll be suiting up at defensive end for Winnipeg), he has all the physical tools needed to become a dominant pass rusher north of the border. Westerman compares extremely well to former Blue Bomber Phillip Hunt, someone whose success the Bombers would be thrilled to see replicated by their latest acquisition.

For comparison, both Westerman and Hunt were part of the 2009 NFL draft class. Both ‘tweeners’ by NFL standards (ie. too small for the defensive end position, but too large for linebacker), neither was drafted. Without an NFL contract, Hunt came north and put up nineteen sacks in two seasons in blue and gold, including a league-best sixteen in 2010. As a result, Hunt was named a CFL all-star and given a shot to play in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles prior to the 2011 campaign. Though no longer with the Eagles, Hunt has maintained NFL employment ever since and is currently a member of the Detroit Lions.

Though Westerman (6’2, 256) was slightly larger than Hunt (6’1, 244) during their pro days back in 2009, the two young players performed remarkably similarly in testing prior to the draft. The two posted identical 10-yard dashes (1.60) and virtually identical 40-yard dashes (4.75 for Hunt, 4.78 for Westerman). Westerman bested Hunt in the areas of bench reps (20 to 14) and broad jump (10’02” to 9’08”), while Hunt won out at the vertical jump (41.5” to 36.5”), 20-yard shuttle (4.22 to 4.38), and 3-cone drill (6.91 to 7.03).

And while these numbers are significantly dated – guys perform a lot differently six years into their pro career than they did as bright-eyed, bushy-tailed rookies – the numbers reveal a striking physical similarity between the two players. There is one key difference, however, and it’s a big one: Westerman, unlike Hunt, carries national status in the CFL. That adds remarkably to his value, and will make him the undisputed signing of the off-season should he put up numbers that are even somewhat similar to Hunt’s back in 2010.

Westerman’s signing could also have a major impact on what the Bombers choose to do in next week’s CFL draft. With the sudden acquisition of a starting-quality national player, the Bombers can now begin to more seriously consider drafting players who have garnered NFL interest. And while I’d still be wary of the Bombers using one of their top three selections on a player who is currently under contract with an NFL team (Yale’s Tyler Varga, Rice’s Christian Covington, and UNLV’s Brett Boyko come to mind), anyone outside of those three players should now be open for serious consideration.

John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk

Twitter: @BlueBomberTalk


John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.