Day 1 of the CFL Free agency period was a rollercoaster of emotion for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers fans. The team started the day adding veteran CFL All-star Greg Ellingson to the wide receiver core but lost five players including future Hall-of-Famer Andrew Harris.
The news about Ellingson signing with the Blue Bombers was announced early during the free agency period, and fans all over were elated.
Ellingson ranks in the CFL’s Top 50 in career receiving yards. He appeared in over 110 regular-season games with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Ottawa RedBlacks, and Edmonton Elks totaling 7,952 yards on 549 receptions and 42 touchdowns. In his last season with the Edmonton Elks, he recorded 687 total yards for 47 receptions and one TD in 10 games ending his streak of five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
The Andrew Harris news broke soon after the Ellingson news and immediately became the center of attention in Winnipeg. Harris left his hometown to sign a deal with the Toronto Argonauts. I have not seen Harris play, but looking at all the things fans and teammates said about him it was obvious he was special.
The Blue Bombers posted a video of Harris life and team accomplishments thanking him for his time dressed in blue and gold. Some words said about Harris that popped out to me were “self-made Legend,” “Winner,” “😭” and “Thank You.”
The Blue Bombers lost seven other players who were a part of the 108th Grey Cup championship team. Wide receiver Kenny Lawler and defensive end/linebacker Tobi Antigha signed with the Edmonton Elks. Darvin Adams along with dime back Alden Darby signed with the Ottawa Red Blacks. Defensive tackle Steven Richardson signed with the B.C Lions and cornerback Mike Jones will be joining the Montreal Alouettes.
Guard Drew Desjarlais and cornerback DeAundre Alford are also no longer with the team as they both pursue the NFL.
While Blue Bombers fans and players will truly miss eight players that are no longer with the club, Ellingson is exactly the kind of presence the offense will need in pursuit of their third consecutive Grey Cup Championship. Ellingosn is a proven commodity with multiple All-star appearances that will bring a veteran presence to the blue bombers locker room, which is exactly why the club has pursued him twice before. Once when he left for Ottawa in free agency and then again for Edmonton.
“They did a great job reaching out to me, everybody there giving me a call and making sure that it was known that I was wanted there, and I was valued,” said Ellingson in a Zoom call from his offseason base in Tampa, FL. “Aside from the other teams, that’s kind of the main thing you want as a player. Besides being an organization that’s well respected, as Winnipeg is, and I think everybody in the league has a lot of admiration for what the guys do over there and how they handle themselves, and, obviously, the success they’ve had the past couple of years. But aside from that, just being in that culture, it’s something that’s appealing to a player.
“So, them reaching out and letting me know that I was wanted, and definitely the players that they have over there, including Zach (Collaros), who I spent time with in Hamilton and talking to him a little bit. That’s definitely what swayed me towards wanting to go there over other teams.”
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