Walters focused on putting another championship team together


Walters focused on putting another championship team together

Kyle Walters hasn’t had much time to dwell on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers failing to three-peat.

Less than two weeks after losing a 24-23 heartbreaker in the Grey Cup to the underdog Toronto Argonauts, the general manager has been busy re-signing key veterans in offensive lineman Patrick Neufeld, defensive end Willie Jefferson, and linebacker Adam Bighill.

As for the biggest free agent of all, head coach Mike O’Shea, it was reported this week that the club had reached an agreement with him on a three-year extension. Walters spoke to reporters Thursday morning on a wide range of topics, but there was one he was reluctant to touch: the negotiations with O’Shea.


Bombers GM Kyle Walters is busy signing his pending free agents but had little to say about head coach Mike O’Shea’s contract negotiations.

“Work in progress. That’s all I’m going to say. When there is an announcement, we’ll let you know,” said Walters, who was showing support for Canada’s final World Cup match by wearing the jersey of Canadian midfielder Stephen Eustáquio.

O’Shea and 23 players, such as left tackle Stanley Bryant, defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and receiver Nic Demski, are the immediate focus as they’re without deals for the upcoming year, but there should be some attention on Walters as well.

Walters, who’s been Winnipeg’s general manager since 2013, is heading into the final year of his contract. O’Shea’s last two extensions, which came in 2016 and 2019, were accompanied by Walters also being extended.

“I mean… (chuckles) I’m good either way. I’m at the point in my career where I don’t worry too terribly much about that,” said Walters.

“Wade (Miller) and I have been together since the beginning of this. We’ve built this thing up. I’m sure we’ll sit down at some point and figure something out one way or another.”

He might not worry about his contract, but he should have some worries about team’s kicking situation. After losing reliable veteran Sergio Castillo to the Edmonton Elks in the off-season, Walters failed to bring in any competition for young Canadian kicker Marc Liegghio. Nor did he make any moves during the season when Liegghio started to show signs of not being ready to kick in big moments.

Walters said they will explore all options to try to put the best roster together for next year.

“When you put it all together, we anticipated Marc having a better year and he did have a better year. He came in this year and kicked quite well for us throughout the year. He had ups and downs throughout the year like a lot of young kickers but was fairly consistent throughout the year,” said Walters.

“The extra points in the playoffs are what we’ll remember and obviously that needs to be addressed and he needs to work on that.”

Finding someone to kick the ball through the uprights consistently is far from the team’s only concern. This group has reached three straight Grey Cups, but with quarterback Zach Collaros, the majority of the offensive and defensive lines, and Adam Bighill all over the age of 30, the roster needs to find some younger talent.

Walters agrees.

“Yeah, we’re getting there and that’s something you certainly need to look at and address. It’s the fine line,” he said.

“We’ve got a really good group. We were 15-3, we go to a third Grey Cup and are close to winning three in a row. Yet, you do have to consciously decide here or there what veteran do you potentially move on from and replace him with a younger guy. But I still believe we’re in that moment of winning championships with our core group.”

Walters added that their youth movement has been set back with players, especially Canadian ones such as offensive lineman Drew Desjarlais and Jonathan Kongbo, leaving in recent years to pursue careers in the NFL. As of now, it doesn’t look like the Bombers will lose anyone else to the four-down league. Many assumed receiver Dalton Schoen would get a lot of interest from teams down south after his historic rookie season, but Walters said that hasn’t been the case.

“As of now, I’ve received no requests… So the process goes, if there’s an NFL team that sends me a letter with the player they’d like to work out, we allow that player to work out. If the NFL team wants to give him a contract offer, then I get another letter and we release that player. So that’s sort of the process. And as of now I haven’t received any requests for our players to work out.”

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Taylor Allen

Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of…

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