Kirk Penton of the Winnipeg Sun published this list of pending Blue Bomber free agents late last week. Considering that the Bombers are now officially in next-year country, I thought I’d give my take on how many of the club’s twelve pending free agents they should try to have back in blue and gold next season.
FB Michel-Pierre Pontbriand
There’s nothing sexy about the fullback position, but Michel-Pierre Pontbriand has been one of the Bombers’ most consistent role players since signing with the club back in 2011. Pontbriand blocks very well, is an underrated ball carrier and receiver, and consistently plays hard on special teams. Perhaps most importantly, Pontbriand is a strong leader in the locker room and has never missed a game due to injury in his career. He’ll be 33 in March, but the Bombers would be wise to bring him back for 2016.
QB Matt Nichols
Matt Nichols is a competent back-up CFL quarterback. He won’t win you a championship, but Nichols is more than capable of keeping the seat warm for an injured starting pivot. Enough said.
Re-sign… for the right price
SB Nick Moore
At the top of his game, Nick Moore is one of the CFL’s best receivers. Unfortunately for the Bombers, Moore hasn’t often been at the top of his game since signing a two-year, $360,000 contract in February of 2014. If the Bombers can convince Moore to come back for a reduced price – a salary similar to Ernest Jackson’s $130,000 deal with Ottawa would serve as a reasonable framework – I’d like to see him back in blue and gold. If not, it’s time to say good-bye to Mr. Moore.
DE Louie Richardson
Louie Richardson will never be an all-star, but he’s a consistent performer on special teams who, as a University of Manitoba graduate, provides the Bombers with some local flavor. The fact that Richardson provides a rotational option for fellow national defensive end Jamaal Westerman also adds to his value. Even with his history of injury troubles, I’d be happy to see the Bombers sign Louie Richardson to a one-year deal close to the veteran minimum.
LB Graig Newman
The Bombers signed Newman to a relatively rich contract when they brought him over from Saskatchewan prior to the 2014 season. The financial aspect of the deal indicated that the Bombers thought Newman, a career special teamer to that point, had the potential to become a defensive starter. Newman ended up missing the entire 2014 season due to a devastating ankle injury and then recorded just fifteen total tackles in 2015 (six on defence, nine on special teams). If Newman is ever going to become a capable defensive starter, I’d like to see him prove it next season on an inexpensive short-term deal.
P Lirim Hajrullahu
Hajrullahu imploded during his sophomore season, losing his placekicking job in early October due to a putrid 71.4 percent success rate on converts and an abysmal 68.8 percent success rate on field goals. Still, there’s value in having a Canadian who can perform all three jobs — after all, it’s always possible that Hajrullahu is able to regain his 2014 placekicking form in the future — and his punting average (44.8 yards) ranks second among national players. The Bombers should re-sign him — just not for more than he’s worth.
S Lin-J Shell
Shell is a solid utility defensive back who can play all five positions in the secondary. At 34, Shell’s best years are behind him, but that doesn’t mean he’s not worth keeping around for a cap-friendly price.
Time to move on
T Jace Daniels
Daniels was originally the Bombers’ third choice to start at right tackle this season behind SirVincent Rogers (signed with Ottawa as a free agent) and Marc Dile (cut in training camp due to injury). After a few solid starts at the beginning of the season, Daniels wore down due to some minor injury issues until he broke his ankle in August. Patrick Neufeld has been a substantial upgrade at right tackle since taking over from Daniels, which, considering Daniels is American, makes it tough to see the Bombers bringing him back next season.
HB Demond Washington
Washington has always been a tantalizing player due to his elite athleticism. His explosive quickness and game-breaking speed make him a dangerous returner and, at times, he shows brilliance in coverage. Washington’s issue has always been a lack of consistency. He can’t be trusted to secure the ball on kick returns and often allows mistakes in coverage to throw him off his game. If Washington is able to improve his mental toughness, I believe he could be a good player in this league. With that said, I think he and the Bombers would be best served with a change of scenery.
RB Cameron Marshall
Cameron Marshall has been a decent workhorse for the Bombers since Paris Cotton went down with a season-ending arm injury back in August. His receiving numbers – 28 receptions for 358 yards – are impressive, but Marshall lacks the explosiveness required to be a full-time CFL running back. Considering how many international tailbacks are always looking for work, I don’t see a reason for the Bombers to bring Marshall back next season.
DE Thaddeus Gibson
Gibson came to the Bombers midway through the 2014 season via the Alex Suber trade. Since then, Gibson has spent most of his time on the team’s injured list and has yet to record a sack. As such, it’s probably time to move on.
G/T Selvish Capers
Another player who came to Winnipeg via trade, Capers has been adequate at best since arriving in early September. He’s played almost exclusively at left guard and, while you hate to hold a player’s nationality against them, Capers hasn’t been strong enough as an interior international offensive lineman to bring back next season. Seeing American rookies Greg Van Roten and Jason Foster flourish at centre and guard for Toronto and BC has shown what good scouting can do for a team’s o-line production. For this reason, I don’t think Capers should be brought back in 2016.
John Hodge, Blue Bomber Talk