The Winnipeg Blue Bombers opened up the piggy bank to bring star receiver Kenny Lawler back home on day one of free agency but arguably the biggest news of the day was a move they didn’t have to make.
After taking the CFL by storm in 2022, receiver Dalton Schoen was not offered an NFL contract by any team ahead of Tuesday’s noon deadline. That means the league’s Most Outstanding Rookie will be staying in blue and gold for at least one more season.
“The window closed today, so there was no official signing,” Bombers’ general manager Kyle Walters said during his post-free agency press conference. “He had a bunch of workouts and a bunch of teams were kicking the tires, but I guess nobody was willing to pull the trigger on him.”
Schoen made 70 receptions for 1,441 yards and 16 touchdowns, averaging 20.6 yards per catch. He was the first rookie to lead the league in receiving yards since 2000 when Curtis Marsh did so as a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The six-foot-one, 218-pound target was also a factor in the West Final and Grey Cup, making six catches for 114 yards and one touchdown through the playoffs.
Schoen’s eye-popping statistics earned him a number of NFL workouts following the season, including with the Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, and Cincinnati Bengals. However, the 26-year-old did not receive a contract offer as NFL scouts believe his production was inflated by taking advantage of the waggle motion in the CFL slot.
“Obviously you feel bad for Dalton because I’m sure with that much interest, his group was probably thinking ‘is there a chance?'” Walters acknowledged. “They’re probably a little bit defeated or disappointed that they didn’t get an opportunity to go down there but we’re obviously happy to have him back.”
Schoen was a walk-on at Kansas State University where he made 92 receptions for 1,569 yards and nine touchdowns. He signed with the Los Angeles Chargers after going unselected in the 2020 NFL Draft and has also been a member of the Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Commanders, though he has yet to dress for a regular season NFL game.
The Overland Park, Kan. native has one year remaining on his rookie contract and will make near the league minimum of $70,000 next season. His low price point helped the Bombers pay a premium for a player like Lawler, who is expected to open up even more space for the second-year receiver and help him prove that his 2022 production wasn’t a fluke before testing the NFL again next offseason.