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Winnipeg Blue Bombers re-sign all-star linebacker Bighill to extension

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Money wasn't the overriding factor in Adam Bighill's decision to remain with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The all-star linebacker signed a one-year extension with the CFL club Thursday. Bighill was slated to become a free agent Feb. 8 and said he pondered hitting the open market, but opted to stay put after considering the big picture.

"I just didn't get a sense that it would make sense to go anywhere else," the married father of three young children said Thursday during a conference call. "We love being here in Winnipeg, we've loved it ever since we got here.

"As far as maximizing value, no, I don't think I maximized my value. I think the only way you can do that is by going to free agency. For me, it's not always about maximizing my value on the open market. 

"There's a lot more that goes into it for me . . . I do like being in Winnipeg and I love the fanbase, I love the community, I love being a big part of this franchise. I put a lot of value into those, I guess is what I am saying, as opposed to contract dollars in some respects."

Bighill wasn't the only big-name Bomber to decide to stay put Thursday. Later in the evening, Winnipeg announced it had agreed to terms with quarterback Zach Collaros on a one-year contract extension.

Like Bighill, Collaros was scheduled to become a free agent last month. Collaros was the CFL's outstanding player last season and capped his season by being named the MVP of Winnipeg's 33-25 overtime win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Grey Cup at Tim Hortons Field.

But for Bighill, another consideration was his work off the football field as investment adviser in Winnipeg.

"I have clients across the country from B.C. to Ontario, but Winnipeg is at the base of my business," he said. "All of those factors tie in.

"I guess there's always a feeling of comfort, of knowing what to expect. There's also comfort in knowing how green your grass is as opposed to looking elsewhere.

The five-foot-10, 219-pound Bighill was the CFL's top defensive player last season after registering 70 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries anchoring the league's stingiest defence. He was also a major contributor in Winnipeg securing a second straight Grey Cup title.

The outstanding defensive player award was Bighill's third (2015 with B.C. Lions, 2018 with Winnipeg) and he was named a CFL all-star last season for the sixth time. He's also played for three Grey Cup-winning teams (B.C. in 2011, 2019 and 2021 with the Bombers).

Bighill is entering 10th CFL season and fourth with Winnipeg. He began his career in Canada with B.C. (2011-16) and joined the Bombers in 2018 after one year with the NFL's New Orleans Saints (2017).

Winnipeg's defence last season led the CFL in fewest offensive points allowed (12.9 per game), offensive touchdowns (15), net offence (281.3), most turnovers forced (38), and lowest opponent passing efficiency (71.3). It also surrendered 13.4 points per game — the ninth-fewest total in CFL history and lowest since 1970.

At age 33, Bighill said he feels he's at the top of his game.

"I feel very, very confident, very good moving forward with where I'm at in my career and I know there's a lot more things I can still do," Bighill said. "The defence here in Winnipeg allows me to be dynamic and a player who can make plays all over the field and I really like that.

"Richie (defensive co-ordinator Richie Hall) does a great job of allowing me to be a playmaker and finding ways to be creative, in general, for our whole team."

Winnipeg GM Kyle Walters has been busy this off-season trying to keep the core of his championship team intact. Collaros becomes the 12th Bomber to decide to remain with the club. Defensive linemen defensive linemen Jackson Jeffcoat, Willie Jefferson and Canadian Jake Thomas, veteran offensive linemen Jermarcus Hardrick and Canadians Pat Neufeld and Geoff Gray as well as national special-teams dynamo Mike Miller will also be back.

But many key performers remain poised to become free agents. They include tackle Stanley Bryant (CFL's top lineman last year), league receiving leader Kenny Lawler (94 catches, 1,014 yards, six TDs) and veteran Canadian running Andrew Harris.

Winnipeg has been the class of the CFL the past two seasons, with head coach Mike O'Shea, the CFL's coach of the year in 2021, being credited with helping transform the franchise's culture. Veterans like Bighill have been cited among those who've not only bought into O'Shea's team-first message of discipline, but championed it.

"These last couple of years it's fun to see everybody operating with the same agenda," Bighill said. "I've been places where that's not always the case and it can be frustrating at times for the reasons of failure.

"You don't get what you want and you can usually correlate that to effort, work and behaviour on and off the field. It's a culture thing that creates success, I firmly always believe that and when I came here the organization was trending that way . . . because Osh had started to create that environment. 

"I like to think coming in I helped to curate that even more and make sure we're always trending in the best possible way."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2022.

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press




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