All-star defensive lineman Willie Jefferson has decided to sign with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, per sources.
It’s a two-year agreement between Jefferson and the Bombers worth over $500,000 total.
Jefferson was courted by the Toronto Argos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats during the CFL’s new negotiating window. However, the small town feel of the Manitoba capital was too much to leave.
They always said the East is sweet…
But the West is Best!!! #CmonDownToWinnipeg????????
— Willie H. Jefferson III (@Stmn_Willie_Bmn) February 10, 2020
The Jefferson’s flew into Pearson International Airport on Friday. The Argos put the full court press on Jefferson while he was in The Six. His next stop was Hamilton where the Ticats scheduled a visit with Jefferson at Tim Hortons Field as he traveled down the QEW for meetings on Sunday.
Jefferson was far and away the top player on the pending free agent board. Winnipeg had been in constant contact with the defensive MVP of the Bombers 2019 Grey Cup victory. The blue and gold were the favourites for Jefferson all along — Toronto and Hamilton made it it a difficult decision.
Even though the NCAA-style recruiting pitches were first-class from both franchises, Jefferson, wife Holly and daughter Kelley B. enjoy the lifestyle in Winnipeg. He wants to create a long-lasting legacy in one place and after winning a Grey Cup with the Bombers and bonding with teammates and the community, Winnipeg is where the Jeffersons want to be rooted.
— Holly Jefferson (@HeyHeyHollyJ) February 10, 2020
Jefferson posted a career-high 12 sacks, forced six fumbles and knocked down a CFL single-season record 16 passes in 2019. He also added 24 tackles, five tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and one interception. The 28-year-old was named a CFL all-star for the third straight season and the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player.
The six-foot-seven, 245-pound defensive lineman was a one-man wrecking crew in the 2019 Grey Cup, recording three sacks and forcing two fumbles to help the Blue Bombers upset Hamilton 33-12, hoisting the big silver trophy for the first time in 29 years.
After the green and white offered him less than $175,000 in February 2019, Jefferson negotiated his own free agent contract because he felt the offer was below market value. He inked a one-year contract worth $210,000 with Winnipeg that included the following: a $100,000 signing bonus; $90,000 base salary; $15,000 housing; and $5,000 travel. The disruptive pass rusher performed extremely well in his first season with the Bombers.
Winnipeg upped the ante in order to keep Jefferson in blue and gold.