Blue Bombers’ GM Kyle Walters: restructuring contracts is ‘extremely draining, mentally exhausting’

Photo courtesy: Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Asking players to take pay cuts isn’t fun and Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ general manager Kyle Walters has had to do it often in recent weeks.

“I would describe it as extremely draining and mentally exhausting,” Walters told TSN1290 on Wednesday. “It’s just tough conversation after tough conversation.”

Walters has restructured a number of deals this off-season, including the contracts of Zach Collaros, Michael Couture, Willie Jefferson, and Adam Bighill.

It was no secret heading into the winter that CFL teams were looking to reduce spending following the cancellation of the 2020 season. Teams across the league have asked star players to take reduced salaries — Winnipeg included.

The renegotiations became such a drain for Walters that he set aside a day to sign his 2020 draft class to their first professional contracts.

“That was the only good conversations I had because these kids were pumped. … That was one of the days I remember in the last few months where I’m like, ‘Hey, I hung up the phone and nobody was mad at me.'”

Players don’t like taking pay cuts, so it wasn’t a given that Winnipeg’s veteran core from 2019 would remain intact. Walters believes the chance to become the CFL’s first back-to-back champions in over a decade was a factor in so many players wanting to return.

“I think the common theme over and over again is that the players wanted to come back and, as many as they could, stay as a group. Mike [O’Shea]’s done a hell of a job promoting team unity and the guys have really bought into that.”

“These guys want to stay together. We didn’t get a chance to repeat as Grey Cup champs and I think everybody wants to.”