What Chris Randle’s release means for the Bombers

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers announced the release of boundary cornerback Chris Randle on Wednesday evening.

Randle was one of the Bombers’ longest-tenured players, originally acquired by the team in February of 2014. Winnipeg acquired the shutdown cover man from Calgary just days before he was set to become a free agent, a testament to how much the team coveted Randle’s services.

Randle would appear in 74 games with the Bombers, recording 217 tackles, 12 interceptions, and two touchdowns. He was named a CFL all-star in 2017 and signed a two-year contract extension in January of 2018 worth approximately $150,000 per season.

Randle’s play regressed from 2017 to 2018, but he remains one of the league’s better cover men. There will be a number of CFL teams looking to sign the 30-year-old ahead of next season.

Randle’s release appears to have been triggered for reasons pertaining primarily to the salary cap and, looking at the numbers, it’s easy to understand why.

There aren’t many cornerbacks who make $150,000 in the CFL. Montreal’s Tommie Campbell makes that much in Montreal and Hamilton’s Delvin Breaux — easily the best cover man in the league — makes more.

That’s it.

With that dollar figure comes the expectation of elite performance — evidently, the Bombers felt that Randle was no longer capable of elite play.

Any roster moves that result in cap savings in Winnipeg are sure to draw speculation regarding the status of pending free agent Adam Bighill.

Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun reported on Wednesday that the B.C. Lions aren’t expected to pursue Bighill in free agency. A source told me in November that Bighill would only seriously consider playing in Vancouver or Winnipeg in 2019, cementing the Bombers as the front-runner to retain the CFL’s reigning Most Outstanding Defensive Player.

The lack of a ratified CBA could slow the process of finalizing a contract extension with Bighill, but negotiations seem to be going fairly well. Kyle Walters told the Winnipeg Sun that he and Bighill’s agent “have had productive talks on Adam, but certainly nothing [in the way of an extension is] done.”

Aside from Bighill — who, after earning $175,000 in 2018, could stand to make $225,000 or more on an extension — the Bombers still have a number of key free agents left to extend prior to next month’s deadline.

Winnipeg has saved approximately $300,000 in cap money by releasing Randle and Maurice Leggett. The club has also recouped the $70,000 in dead money that counted against last year’s cap in the form of Darian Durant’s signing bonus.

Some high-priced veterans may also be allowed to depart via free agency — Weston Dressler and Tristan Okpalaugo come to mind — which would create further cap savings.

Taylor Loffler remains the Bombers’ most expensive free agent. Coming off a rookie contract, Loffler — a three-time league all-star — deserves to be compensated like an elite Canadian starter. This would mean paying the UBC product in the neighborhood of $175,000 per season, a raise of over $100,000.

Matthias Goossen and Sukh Chungh also deserve raises along the offensive line, as do defenders Jovan Santos-Knox and Jackson Jeffcoat. Brandon Alexander, whose role with the club should increase following Randle’s release, also needs a contract.

Tough decisions need to be made in order to ensure long-term success in professional football. The Bombers made one on Wednesday with the release of Chris Randle.

Now let’s wait and see if it pays off.

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