REPORTS: Kenny Lawler reportedly agrees in principle to 2-year contract with Bombers
The doors to Canadian Football League free agency don’t officially open until next week, but the Winnipeg Blue Bombers appear to have already taken a bold and aggressive first step.
Kenny Lawler – one of the most dangerous receivers in the CFL – has reportedly agreed in principle to a two-year contract that would return him to the Blue Bombers after he spent the 2022 season with the Edmonton Elks.
The deal won’t be officially confirmed by the club until next Tuesday at the earliest when the free agent market opens at 11 a.m. Teams have had the green light to negotiate with pending free agents since the opening of the ‘legal tampering’ period last Sunday. That window closes on Sunday, two days before free agency at which time the Elks would have exclusive negotiating rights and the chance to improve any pending offer.
There is a sense the Elks have already conceded Lawler is moving on as not long after the news linking his return to Winnipeg broke, reports began circulating that they had agreed to terms on receiver Stephen Dunbar of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
BREAKING: The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have agreed in principle to a two-year contract with receiver Kenny Lawler. Details unclear at this point. #wfp
— Jeff Hamilton (@jeffkhamilton) February 7, 2023
The Lawler-back-to-Winnipeg news comes one day after the club agreed to terms on a three-year contract with Nic Demski and with the team waiting to see if Most Outstanding Rookie Dalton Schoen will land an NFL deal. Already under contract to the Blue Bombers for 2023, Schoen has until February 14th to sign down south.
Other receivers under contract for the Blue Bombers include returning starter Drew Wolitarsky along with Canadian Brendan O’Leary-Orange, import Carlton Agudosi, who made such a big splash in his debut before being injured a week later, and ace returner/part-time receiver Janarion Grant, who signed a new contract last week. Two other receivers – Tavaris Harrison, who dressed for five games but did not register a catch and Jaivon Heiligh, added to the practice roster last fall – are also under contract with more new-to-the-CFL signings expected before training camp.
Both Rasheed Bailey and Greg Ellingson are pending free agents and could sign with another team, especially now as the Lawler reports are circulating.
Breaking: star CFL receiver Kenny Lawler could be coming back to Winnipeg. Sources tell me the Blue #Bombers have agreed in principle to a two-year contract with Lawler. It’s not signed, and can’t be until free agency officially opens.
— Paul Friesen (@friesensunmedia) February 7, 2023
The potential return of Lawler was rumoured as far back as last fall around the CFL trade deadline, although a possible deal was shelved when the 28-year-old star suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery just days before that window closed.
A former seventh-round selection of the Seattle Seahawks in the 2016 NFL Draft, Lawler suited up for 29 games for the Blue Bombers in 2019 and 2021, leading the team in receiving in both campaigns as part of the back-to-back Grey Cup championship teams.
He had 43 receptions for 637 yards and four touchdowns in ’19 and enjoyed a breakout season in 2021 when he led the CFL with 1,014 yards receiving on 64 receptions, six of them for touchdowns while being named a CFL All-Star. He parlayed that into significant interest in the free agent market last winter, signing with the Elks after also getting a significant offer from the B.C. Lions and a pitch from the Blue Bombers to remain.
Lawler was enjoying a sensational ’22 season with the Elks before the injury, having registered 58 receptions for 894 yards and five touchdowns while working with three different starting quarterbacks.