GM Kyle Walters Addresses Trades
It was Day 1, A.D. – After Drew – when Winnipeg Blue Bombers General Manager Kyle Walters made it crystal clear he had little doubts or regrets about the two trades he made Sunday evening that will shape his team’s short-term and long-term future.
The Bombers boss orchestrated a pair of juicy deals on the weekend that sent quarterback Drew Willy to the Toronto Argonauts for defensive back T.J. Heath, the Boatmen’s first round pick in 2017 and their third round pick in 2018, and then flipped a fourth round pick in 2017 to the Montreal Alouettes to bring veteran pivot Kevin Glenn back to Winnipeg.
That’s a considerable haul for Willy, who had lost the starting QB job to Matt Nichols – 6-0 since taking over the gig – and was due a six-figure bonus in January. And by landing Glenn, Walters has protected the team’s QB depth chart that the exit of Willy would have created without another arm coming back in return.
Walters spoke to the media for 20 minutes Monday morning to address many aspects of the two deals. Here are some of the key talking points:
- On why the two deals are good for the club:
“Any time you can acquire draft picks, that’s the currency in our league and we can continue to add Canadian depth. T.J. Heath is a good football player and we’re a little bit thin at that interior defensive halfback/(outside linebacker) spot. He’ll come in and compete instantly with Moe (Maurice Leggett) and Bruce (Johnson) and Kevin (Fogg).
“And adding Kevin Glenn, a veteran quarterback, with Drew moving on it was imperative to get a veteran to come in here and win some football games if needed.”
- On the impact of shedding some salary in the deals:
“I’ve been saying for this football season we certainly could have made (keeping Willy) work from a cap standpoint. But there would have been some difficult decisions moving into next year. With the way Matt’s played and won football games for us, the reality of the world we’re living in is Drew’s contract for 2017 was going to make it difficult for him to be here. That’s a matter of fact. When you put all those factors in, some tough decisions needed to be made now or they need to be made at a later date.”
- On not having any quarterbacks under contract for 2017 with Nichols, Glenn, Dominique Davis and Bryan Bennett all scheduled to become free agents in February:
“Ideally we win the Grey Cup, Matt Nichols leads us to the Grey Cup and gets a new contract. I don’t want to get into specifics about contract talks with the players at this point. (Nichols’) agent is aware of the quarterback landscape, as are all the agents right now of all the quarterbacks in the CFL.
“There’s enough time between now and February 9th (the opening of free agency) and with the quarterback landscape as it is right now in the CFL, currently I’m not overly concerned with that.”
- On Nichols being a better fit for Paul LaPolice’s offence than Willy:
“We saw it in training camp: certain guys click better with different coordinators than others. Matt just seemed to be a better fit for what Paul wanted to accomplish and we saw that a little bit through training camp and certainly through the productivity that Matt had. It’s not uncommon where certain skillsets of players match up with certain coordinators better. In this situation Matt’s just align with Paul’s a little better.
“Drew had his success where he was standing in the pocket delivering the ball down the field. Matt has a bit quicker release, anticipates things a little bit better, gets rid of the ball quicker. Paul and all of us wanted to keep Drew standing and reduce the hit on him – that was the mandate organizationally by improving the offensive line and getting the system set up. It sounds great, but it’s not that simple. You have a skillset as a quarterback that has made you successful and you can’t just quickly change from ‘this is what I do’ to ‘this is what we want you to be or eventually become’. Matt was more ingrained with that style.
“… We were confident that Drew was going to step in and have success right from the get-go. Unfortunately for all of us, it didn’t happen early on and we were forced to make a switch.”
- Discussing the notion from some fans that Kevin Glenn is past his prime:
“Kevin Glenn has shown this year the ability to win football games in our league and put up stats and make plays. We’re bringing him in as a veteran back-up and Paul is familiar with him and his style of offence – quick throws, quick reads – he is a veteran that’s been in games before that we think can come in and solidify that quarterback depth chart.”
- On dealing with the void Willy’s departure leaves in the room, especially with Nichols who has spoken so highly of their relationship as recently as last Friday:
“Of course there is a team dynamic component to everything. But this is pro football, it’s a business and these guys are professionals and they understand. I guarantee you the guys in there have seen friends come and go. You learn quickly in this line of work that it is a business and you act accordingly, prepare accordingly and move on.
“That doesn’t take away from the friendships that you build. For sure, it factors in with those guys and how they react.”
- On whether Willy had been asked to take a pay cut prior to Sunday’s trade:
“I spoke with his agent, we get along very well and both of us see things similarly. It was quite clear from our conversation that he believes that if you agree to a contract you should uphold that contract or be released from that contract. As do I. Conversely, if Drew was the MVP of the league, for example, I would expect them to honour the contract and not come and ask for more.
“It was a very quick conversation. It was clear that he expected us to honour the contract or be released from the contract.”
- On the subject of Drew’s play recently and how that makes him confident this was the right move for the team:
“It was a number of factors: the ball security, the number of turnovers… I think Drew is going to go into Toronto and have a fresh start and have a long successful career. But here in Winnipeg it just looked like it wasn’t going to happen this year and when we moved over to Matt and the success he’s had, it was just evident we were going to go in a different direction and the best decision to make for the organization was to move away from Drew Willy and explore all options right now rather than in January and see what we like.”
- Walters when asked about the franchise’s ability to produce, find a long-term solution at quarterback:
“When we brought Drew in, we needed some stability at the quarterback position. Drew came in and had some success early in his career. Did I do a good enough job surrounding him with talent to have success early on? I don’t think so. Drew went out there, he fought through, he represented this club very well and won us some football games. He got really banged up last year halfway through the year, came back this year and the expectation was (for him to be at) a certain level and it just wasn’t met from us organizationally.
“We went out and targeted Matt Nichols last year when Drew went down and he had some success. It was clear this offseason when Matt was a free agent that he was a guy we saw something in, based on what we had last year. We believed in him and we believed he could come in and win football games if needed. That’s proved to be accurate: that Matt can wins football games for us.”
- When did the decision on trading Willy heat up and his availability become a chip for the franchise:
“When Ricky Ray got hurt and Toronto’s offers got more serious or more substantial. And then with the decision Montreal is going in a different direction and Kevin Glenn became available, this worked out nicely with the ability to acquire a quarterback and acquire some assets for Drew.”
- On how dealing Willy affects his ability to re-sign Nichols:
“The conversation would be exactly the same (if Willy had stayed). Assuming the season plays out the way we hope it does and Matt leads us to the Grey Cup… fast-forward to January… if we don’t have Matt Nichols under contract, are we going to stop all discussions with Matt because Drew has a bonus and commit to Drew Willy? The answer is no. So, at that point you’re in the exact same situation.”
- On T.J. Heath and what he brings:
“T.J. provides depth. He’s a good football player. It’s his first year in the CFL and he’s under contract for next year, which is nice, and the ability to find halfbacks at a high level is critical. They’re hard to find. He’s played SAM linebacker in the preseason and started at boundary halfback, which are two of the more difficult positions on the entire defence to learn. We have Moe and Kevin and Bruce right now, and behind that there’s not a lot of depth. He’s going to come in and compete instantly with those guys and force them to keep their level of play up and add some depth if there is an injury and as he learns Richie’s (Hall, defensive coordinator) system.”