The defending Grey Cup champion Bombers are putting on a recruiting pitch to star receiver Derel Walker, per sources.
Winnipeg has been selling multiple positive factors the organization believes it and the city have to offer Walker.
The 28-year-old comes from Hillsboro, Texas — population less than 10,000. Among the reasons defensive lineman Willie Jefferson wanted to keep playing football in the Manitoba capital was it’s small-town feel. Walker is a confident but quieter, soft spoken person who enjoys being in a close-knit environment, spending his off-seasons in the Lone Star State.
Starting quarterback Zach Collaros didn’t step between the white lines with Walker in Toronto last year as the passer was recovering from a concussion sustained in Week 1. However, Collaros spent over two months at the Argos’ facilities and formed a familiarity with Walker. That combination could be a draw for Walker to actually play in games as Collaros looks his way.
Multiple Bombers’ players have reached to Walker sharing the benefits of playing for head coach Mike O’Shea and the special culture he’s created in Winnipeg. The blue and gold are hoping Walker takes less to sign on the dotted line and earn the money back in playoff bonuses while adding another CFL championship to his resume.
According to sources, Walker’s asking price has come in around the $250,000 mark. He was the highest paid non-quarterback in the league during the 2019 season earning nearly $280,000. If Winnipeg paid Walker a large signing bonus it could put more money in his pocket after taxes and help the Bombers fit him in their salary cap.
Winnipeg has big ticket players already accounted for in the budget. General manager Kyle Walters paid Collaros $440,000 in hard money for 2020; Jefferson $265,000; linebacker Adam Bighill $245,000; Grey Cup MVP Andrew Harris $215,000 and stud offensive lineman Stanley Bryant $207,000. Those are the five $200,000-plus players for the Bombers.
There was a contract offer put forth to Walker by Winnipeg one year ago during free agency in February 2019 which was north of $200,000. All of the big-named players listed were on the roster except for Collaros, though Matt Nichols was on the books for $455,000 at the time.
Walker would pair with Darvin Adams to provide Collaros two dynamic American targets, the former a deep ball threat through his route running ability and game-breaking speed while the later high points the football for contested catches, especially useful in the red zone. Pairing Walker and Adams on the short side of the field could create problems for a defence. Walker is fully capable working from the slot on the opposite side of Adams as well.
Offensive coordinator Buck Pierce could take the creativity to a new level by having Harris in the backfield, Walker and Adams in the receiving core with the ever-versatile Winnipeg native Nic Demski lining up all over the place; Kenny Lawler and Rasheed Bailey have displayed an ability to make crucial catches; national Drew Wolitarsky is highly capable at field side wideout.
It’s conceivable Walker could fit into the Bombers’ offensive scheme and more importantly financial equation if his number becomes team-friendly.