Cap crunching: how much will Bombers have to spend in free agent frenzy?

Blue Bomber general manager Kyle Walters has proven he is unafraid to make big-name signings on day one of free agency.

Nick Moore, Rory Kohlert, and Graig Newman were added on day one of free agency in February of 2014. A year later, Stanley Bryant, Darvin Adams, and Sam Hurl signed on the dotted line with the blue and gold within hours of the CFL’s free agent period kicking off.

Logically, it only stands to reason that the Bombers are going to make yet another splash on the first day of free agency in 2016. Rumors have swirled all off-season about Walters’ interest in receivers Ryan Smith and Kenny Stafford, defensive tackle Ted Laurent, running back Andrew Harris, safety Mike Edem, and kicker/punter Justin Medlock, among others.

The question becomes, then, how much cap space do the Bombers have to spend come Feb. 9? The chart below lists all contractual changes that have taken place with the club since the end of the 2015 regular season.

New Contracts Expired/Expiring Contracts
Drew Willy Dominic Picard
Weston Dressler Brian Brohm
Matt Nichols Nick Moore*
Matthias Goossen Demond Washington*
Stanley Bryant Graig Newman*
Louie Richardson Michel-Pierre Pontbriand*
Macho Harris Thaddeus Gibson*
Lin-J Shell*
Cameron Marshall*
Selvish Capers*
Lirim Hajrullahu*

*indicates players who are under contract until February 9

Many people will point to the expired contracts of Dominic Picard and Nick Moore (the Bombers have confirmed that Moore, who will become a free agent on Feb. 9, will not return in 2016) to suggest that the Bombers have a wealth of cap space. In truth, the combined savings of Picard and Moore’s 2015 salaries amounts to just $25,000 in new cap space once the contract signed by Weston Dressler and the extension Drew Willy inked last May are accounted for. Thus, very little cap space has been created by the departures of Picard and Moore.

In truth, there are no major areas of cap savings for the Bombers for this upcoming season as of yet. Recouping cap space from Brian Brohm, Demond Washington, Graig Newman, and Michel-Pierre Pontbriand’s expired/expiring contracts helps – all four players were earning more than the league’s minimum salary – but none were earning huge dollars.

One positive for the club is that the contract extensions recently signed by offensive linemen Stanley Bryant and Matthias Goossen were inked prior to January 1. This means that any bonuses included in the deals – and it’s safe to assume both deals included substantial signing bonuses – were applied to the 2015 salary cap, saving costs on their cap numbers for 2016.

Even with these savings in mind, though, it’s clear the Bombers will have to cut back on spending elsewhere to account for Tuesday’s big-name signings. There have been late off-season victims of the salary cap before in Bomberland – last May it was veteran offensive lineman Steve Morley – and it stands to reason there will be again this year.

And while it’s never pleasant to discuss the possibility of people losing their jobs, the three most likely candidates for release later this off-season appear to be veterans Greg Peach, Bryant Turner, and Clarence Denmark. Peach, who had just one sack in 2015 after posting a career-high seven in 2014, makes close to double the league’s minimum salary and will be on the wrong side of thirty in November. Turner, one of the league’s highest-paid American defensive tackles, failed to live up to his contract a season ago playing underweight at just 266 pounds. Denmark, meanwhile, was rewarded for a 1,000-yard campaign in 2014 with a contract extension worth a reported $150,000 per season. The five-year Bomber went on to record just 718 yards and three touchdowns in 2015 despite appearing in all eighteen games.

Regardless of how next Tuesday’s free agent frenzy and subsequent salary cap casualties play out, one thing’s for sure – the CFL, even in the off-season, is never boring.

Stay tuned.


John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.