How the Bombers can create cap space for Henoc Muamba

Canadian linebacker Henoc Muamba is “trying to make” re-joining the Winnipeg Blue Bombers “happen”, the city where he started his CFL career.

The Bombers have wined and dined Muamba, so now it’s time to get down to business. Given his hefty price tag – he will command in the neighbourhood of $200,000 – how will the Bombers be able to afford him?

Muamba’s old contract with the Riders would have seen him make $220,000 (if he played in 15 games) and while his new deal may not quite reach that lofty number, $200,000 seems too be the starting rate for an elite, ratio-breaking Canadian. Argos’ tackle Chris Van Zeyl, Alouettes’ defensive lineman Jamaal Westerman, Redblacks’ receiver Brad Sinopoli, Ticats’ defensive tackle Ted Laurent, and Bombers’ running back Andrew Harris are all within that (upper class) national neighbourhood. Muamba belongs in that group, but Winnipeg has to make sure he fits within their salary cap.

There is one easy way to create some room: release defensive end Tristan Okpalaugo. The 28-year-old signed a two-year contract with the Bombers last February. He played in 12 games making 34 tackles and six sacks while intercepting a pass for a touchdown. Okpalaugo made approximately $168,000 in 2017 and 2018 sees his contract bump $10,000 to $178,000. For comparison, that’s over $30,000 more than the CFL’s reigning sack leader Charleston Hughes is due to make with the Riders.

Jackson Jeffcoat, who produced 36 tackles and seven sacks plus a forced fumble and interception, remains on a cheap rookie CFL deal. Free agent Craig Roh signed for two seasons, four days after the market opened when prices for players dropped and he has 20 sacks in 45 career games. Jeffcoat and Roh are both younger, played more games in 2017, and can rush the passer just as well if not better than Okpalaugo. Granted Okpalaugo is the only player on the Bombers roster with double-digit sack seasons on his resume.

All three are starting-calibre ends in the CFL, but money plays a factor and the least amount of value for the dollars out of the trio is obvious. Canadian Trent Corney is a rising talent and he’s served as the rotational end since being drafted ninth overall in 2016. He’s a great depth piece, who has intriguing potential as a starter and rounds out the defensive end position nicely if Okpalaugo is there or not.

Without having access to the Bombers’ exact salary cap numbers and tools to move numbers around, it would seem possible to take Okpalaugo’s money out and tinker elsewhere on the roster to find the $200,000 that could bring Muamba back to Winnipeg.