Jermarcus Hardrick re-signed with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on a one-year contract, forgoing free agency after being named a CFL all-star for the first time in his eight-year career.
“There was never any doubt where I wanted to be. I had never thought about free agency, so I didn’t know what free agency was going to be like or anything like that, so I’m just happy for the deal get done. I wanted to get to a certain number and we got the job done,” said Hardrick via conference call.
The 31-year-old’s new deal has put him among the league’s highest-paid American right tackles at $150,000, per source, alongside Edmonton’s Colin Kelly and B.C.’s Ryker Mathews.
Winnipeg was able to get three key linemen signed over the past few days with Hardrick, Willie Jefferson, and Jackson Jeffcoat inking contract extensions. It’s clear that none of the marquee players wanted to leave the Blue Bombers despite likely being able to make more money elsewhere.
“During the last week or so I was probably talking on the phone with those guys three, four times a week. I’m still recruiting other guys. It’s been like this every year — we get in the off-season and one guy gets the ball rolling, you hear another guy, hear from his agent and we’re basically just recruiting each other,” said Hardrick.
“Would you rather leave for 10K or you stay here with your family and try to go earn another one? That’s basically what it comes down to most times in Winnipeg. You don’t want to leave (head coach Mike) O’Shea or anything over there in Winnipeg.”
The six-foot-five, 320-pound blocker has played 78 games for the Blue Bombers since joining the club as a free agent in 2016 following brief stints with the B.C. Lions and Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Hardrick is currently in Lincoln, Neb. where his family just purchased a new house. He trains offensive linemen privately and has clients ranging from middle school to NCAA Division I. He spoke glowingly about O’Shea as a coaching influence, calling him a “father figure.”
“Just the way Mike O’Shea carries himself, my wife looks up to his wife. They had three kids young and we’ve got three kids young in our football career. We try to do everything the O’Shea way, man. Me and my wife look up to what him and his wife does so much and we’re always trying to pattern our life after them.”
Winnipeg has won back-to-back Grey Cups with their strong play along the line of scrimmage being a primary reason for their success. Though there are many key pending free agents the club has yet to re-sign, the importance of having Hardrick, Jefferson, and Jeffcoat back for 2022 can’t be understated.