Perennial all-star defensive end Willie Jefferson signed a contract extension with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers with goal of winning a third-straight Grey Cup.
“That (possibility of a three-peat) plays a big role. That’s the goal, that’s a rabbit that we’re chasing. I’m pretty sure when the season starts, or when camp starts, that’s gonna be something that (head) coach (Mike) O’Shea doesn’t want us to talk about,” said Jefferson via conference call.
“It’s gonna take some time, it’s gonna take some work, it’s gonna take some effort. And we’re ready to put that work in. We just need our guys back and if we can get them back, we can put that work in.”
Winnipeg successfully defended their Grey Cup title from 2019 last month with a 33-25 overtime victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. It marked the first time the Blue Bombers had won back-to-back championships since 1961-62 and the first time a CFL team won consecutive Grey Cups since the Montreal Alouettes did so in 2009-10.
The only team to successfully three-peat in the modern history of the CFL is the Edmonton Elks, who won five championships in a row from 1978-82.
Jefferson remained in close contact with fellow returnees Jermarcus Hardrick and Jackson Jeffcoat as contract negotiations were underway. The trio wanted to maximize their value coming off a pandemic-shortened season in which players were forced to accept pay cuts, but do so without hurting the rest of the team.
“You don’t want to take too much and take away from somebody else that you want to be there. It’s not always about the money, but we do deserve a little bit more than what we did last year due to the pay cuts and the pandemic and things like that. We got people back in the seats, we got people back buying merchandise and stuff like that, so guys want to be compensated,” said Jefferson.
The soon-to-be 31-year-old recorded 19 total tackles, seven sacks, three forced fumbles, two interceptions, and one touchdown during the 2021 regular season. He was also impactful during the postseason, making one sack and one forced fumble in Winnipeg’s victory over Saskatchewan in the West Final.
“We’re all trying to be together to do something special like we’ve been doing these last two years,” said Jefferson. “We all want to be back together. We all want to work hard with each other, compete against each other.”
There are a number of key pending free agents still on Winnipeg’s list, including quarterback Zach Collaros, left tackle Stanley Bryant, right guard Patrick Neufeld, defensive tackle Steven Richardson, linebacker Adam Bighill, and safety Brandon Alexander.
Though he would understand if any of the club’s top remaining free agents left to make more money elsewhere, Jefferson wants to see them all back in Winnipeg for another potential title run in 2022.
“Everybody that was on that list, I want the best for them. I want them to be back in Winnipeg. If we can make that happen, that’ll be the best scenario. But if not, the best to you, I hope you get what you want and a little bit more,” said Jefferson.
“But if not, there’s always: come on down to Winnipeg. We got what you want, we got what you need. You know what it is — it’s big smoke at IG Field.”
The six-foot-seven, 255-pound pass rusher is currently in his home state of Texas where he is celebrating with the Grey Cup, though he won’t be down south for long as he plans to move to Winnipeg with his wife and daughter full-time by late February or March.