May 26 , 2014 ISN – WINNIPEG — It was an off-season of change from top to bottom in Winnipeg, and they’re hoping the changes get them back into the post-season conversation.
The 2013 campaign proved to be a rough one for a Winnipeg team that was just two years removed from a Grey Cup appearance.
While their off-season got underway a little earlier than they may have preferred, the Bombers quickly went to work on establishing the foundation for change.
First, an executive staff, spearheaded by President and CEO Wade Miller and GM Kyle Walters, was given the keys to do whatever they please with the franchise.
The two promptly put together a strong front office and a refreshed coaching staff.
The roster also underwent some major renovations, as the new staff went to work trying to improve the team for 2014.
If that wasn’t enough change the Bombers, will move to the West Division in order to make room for the incoming Ottawa REDBLACKS.
With the Grey Cup Playoffs underway, and the Bombers already well into their off-season planning, Walters announced that head coach Tim Burke would not be returning as the head coach of the team, and that he would soon begin his search for a new sideline boss.
Shortly thereafter, Miller saw the acting tag be removed from his title, while the same was done for Walters as General Manager.
As the temperatures continued to decrease, the Bombers would in turn continue to increase the depth of their front office, announcing that Danny McManus and Ted Goveia had been added to the football operations staff as the Assistant General Manager, Director of US Scouting and Assistant General Manager, Director of Player Personnel respectively.
The month would also see the Bombers end their search for a head coach when they hired former Argonauts Special Teams Coordinator Mike O’Shea.
Almost immediately after the O’Shea hiring, linebacker Pierre-Luc Labbe announced his retirement after a 6-year career with the team.
As they said goodbye to Labbe the Bombers would also say goodbye to three other players as a result of the expansion draft.
While they weren’t terribly affected in the expansion draft, as they were able to protect their best players, they still lost notable names like Wallace Miles, James Green, and Rory Kohlert.
With the Expansion Draft in the rear-view mirror, the Bombers announced the re-signings of offensive lineman Steve Morley and punter Mike Renaud along with Bryant Turner.
With 2013 calendar almost at a close, the Bombers welcomed back a friendly and needed face, as defensive end Jason Vega returned from a one-year stint in the NFL.
Winnipeg started the the new year by signing fullback Michel-Pierre Pontbriand to a contract extension, and followed that up with one of their most essential signings of the off-season in defensive back Alex Suber taking him off of the market before free agency began.
Prior to free agency, the Bombers worked out a trade with the Tiger-Cats that saw the rights to Giovanni Aprile sent to Hamilton in exchange for defensive back Matt Bucknor.
Following the minor Aprile deal, the Bombers added some much needed experience to their lineup by acquiring defensive back Korey Banks from the BC Lions, shipping Kito Poblah to Vancouver in return.
Other January Transactions
Sign Kenny Tate, LB
Sign Gabe Loper, DB
Because of free agency, February proved to be a busy month for the Bombers.
But the before the market opened, the Bombers continued to re-tool their roster.
They would start by signing Canadians Chris Kowalczuk and Ryan Lucas, while releasing Canadian linebacker Henoc Muamba in order to allow him to pursue a career in the NFL.
They would then swing a pair of trades with a pair of West Division rivals.
First, they acquired their biggest piece of the off-season in quarterback Drew Willy, who O’Shea promptly named their starting pivot. In exchange for their new QB, the Bombers shipped Canadian receiver Jade Etienne the other way.
They would then trade their 24th pick in the 2014 Draft to Calgary in exchange for the 26th overall pick and defensive back Chris Randle.
As free agency got underway, the Bombers grabbed one of the sought-after players on the market in receiver Nick Moore.
Then, after losing him during the Expansion Draft, the Bombers re-signed Canadian receiver Rory Kohlert, and brought back another essential part ofthe offence in running back Will Ford shortly afterwards.
Moore’s arrival in Winnipeg proved to even more valuable, as veteran wide receiver and longtime Bomber Terrence Edwards announced his retirement.
Walters would continue to secure depth on the defensive side of the ball, by re-signing safety Dan West, adding Canadian journeyman Donovan Alexander, and signing Banks to a contract extension.
To finish off the month the Bombers would continue to tweak both their roster and their coaching staff. They announced Gary Etcheverry as their new Defensive Coordinator, and tweaked their quarterback depth chart by releasing backup Justin Goltz and trading their 5th round draft pick in 2014 to the Tiger-Cats in exchange for QB Brian Brohm.
Other February Transactions
Sign Chris Randle, DB
Release Jeremy McGee, DB
Release Shannon Boatman, OL
The changes would continue for the Bombers in March as new head coach Mike O’Shea would slowly announce additions to his coaching staff.
In one of the more popular moves for O’Shea this off-season, Buck Pierce, who had just announced his retirement, joined the team’s staff as the running backs coach.
Other March Transactions
Release Mike Sims-Walker, WR
Sign Gerald Mcrath, LB
Sign Damario Jeffrey, DE
Sign Michael Ray Garvin, WR
Sign Austin Coleman, WR
In another coaching announcement, O’Shea brought Bob Wylie into the fold to take control of the team’s offensive line.
Other April Transactions
Sign Nick Grigsby, RB
Sign Louie Richardson, DL
Sign Brandon Hogan, DB
Sign Leon Williams, LB
Sign Jason Barnes, WR
Sign Bruce Johnson, DB
With Training camps right around the corner the Bombers would make some final moves while getting ready for the Draft.
In the midst of preparing for the draft the Bombers would make some more room on the depth chart.
Only months after releasing his brother Henoc, the Bombers parted ways with safety Cauchy Muamba.
Below is a look at who the Blue Bombers Drafted during the 2014 CFL Draft.
2. Matthias Goossen OL Simon Fraser
17. Jesse Briggs LB McGill
29. Derek Jones DB Simon Fraser
47. Quinn Everett DL Mount Allison
56. Aram Eisho LB McMaster