The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have had discussions with star receiver Kenny Lawler during the CFL’s negotiating window, per sources.
Free agents from around the league are permitted to negotiate contracts as part of the “legal tampering” period that opened on Sunday. It’s possible that Lawler could be back in blue and gold in 2023, though his asking price remains high as it was a year ago.
The 28-year-old made $305,000 on his one-year contract with the Edmonton Elks in 2022. He caught 58 passes for 894 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games before his season was disrupted by a broken collarbone, which required surgery.
Despite missing out on reaching a 1,000-yard campaign, Lawler has visions of continuing to be the league’s highest-paid non-quarterback. According to sources, he’s asking for $1,000,000 over the course of a three-year contract. The proven playmaker wants long-term stability with the team he chooses to play for in this upcoming season and it could very well be Winnipeg.
The Blue Bombers, per sources, are not currently planning to re-sign veteran pass catcher Greg Ellingson who made $165,000 last year. The club was also in the mix to bring Canadian offensive lineman Drew Desjarlais back to the Manitoba capital, an indication that general manager Kyle Walters has some cash to spend under the salary cap. Plus, Rasheed Bailey remains a pending free agent and earned $138,000 this past season.
Dalton Schoen, Nic Demski, Drew Wolitarsky and Carlton Agudosi are four likely starters at receiver for Winnipeg. With Schoen and Agudosi on rookie deals, Lawler could fit into the financial picture to give the Bombers their fifth starter at receiver. He is ineligible to receive guaranteed money from any team on his next contract as he has not spent the past two years with the same club.
The six-foot-three, 197-pound Lawler recorded 64 receptions for a CFL-leading 1,014 yards and six touchdowns in 13 regular season games in 2021, helping Winnipeg win the 108th Grey Cup. He averaged 78 yards per game, 15.8 yards per catch and had a league-best 10 plays of 30 yards or more while catching passes from franchise quarterback Zach Collaros.
Lawler played 16 games in 2019 and led Winnipeg with 637 receiving yards on 41 receptions with four touchdowns to earn the team’s nomination for Most Outstanding Rookie. He started three playoff games, adding eight receptions for 126 yards and one touchdown as Winnipeg won the 107th Grey Cup.
The Bombers realize Lawler’s importance to the offence as a game-changing playmaker. He was in blue and gold for each of the team’s back-to-back CFL championships and could be the piece to put them on top again. Winnipeg is working diligently to get a deal agreed to in order to reunite Lawler with the league’s reigning Most Outstanding Player and put the two-time West Division all-star target in the same receiving group as the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie.
With notes from 3DownNation reporter John Hodge.