Kyle Walters wants his head coach and starting quarterback to return to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The team’s general manager, who has one year left on his contract, also wants to extend his own future with the CFL club.
Walters told reporters Friday the team’s trending in the right direction under head coach Mike O’Shea and quarterback Matt Nichols.
“We saw some improvement this year so I think, from my standpoint, let’s just keep refocusing on what we’re doing,” Walters said in his season-ending press conference.
The Bombers posted an 11-7 record, the most wins since 2003.
It was a mark that also sent them to the playoffs for the first time since 2011, although it ended with a 32-31 loss to the B.C. Lions in last Sunday’s West Division semifinal.
O’Shea’s three-year contract is expiring and Walters says talks will soon begin.
“I expect it to go smooth,” Walters said of negotiations with O’Shea, who just wrapped up his first stint as a head coach.
“Mike and I, I think we respect each other and we’re friends and we’ll sit down. It’s basically going to ask him ‘Where do you want to be?’ And if he wants to be in Winnipeg, I think we’ll work to make that happen.”
Nichols is one of the team’s approximate 20 pending free agents, a number Walters said isn’t uncommon with the amount of one-year contracts now signed in the league.
He doesn’t expect to be as busy in free agency as he was last off-season, and is excited to have the first and fifth picks in next year’s CFL draft.
Right now, though, getting a new deal inked with Nichols is his No. 1 priority, and he’d like it done before free agency kicks off on Feb. 14, 2017.
Nichols was acquired in a September 2015 trade with Edmonton. He took over Drew Willy’s starting job in late July when the team was 1-4, finishing with a career-high 3,666 yards, 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Walters said he should be able to pay Nichols as one of the league’s top pivots, and the Bombers shouldn’t be over the salary cap for the 2016 season.
He’ll also explore re-signing veteran backup quarterback Kevin Glenn, who was acquired in a trade with Montreal on Sept. 11, the same day Willy was dealt to Toronto.
“Other than not having a quarterback under contract for 2017, I think we’re in good shape heading into next year,” Walters said with a chuckle.
“Or a head coach,” he added. “So other than that, I think we’re in good shape.”
He confirmed the 2016 contracts of kicker Justin Medlock and offensive lineman Stanley Bryant were renegotiated during the season to help keep the team below the cap. They’re both now pending free agents and he’s optimistic he’ll get new deals done.
Medlock, who set a CFL record with 60 successful field goals out of 68 attempts, ended the season with a miss.
After leading throughout the entire semifinal against B.C., the Bombers found themselves behind with 36 seconds left. On third down with four yards to go, O’Shea sent Medlock out to attempt a 61-yard field goal. The ball fell seven yards short of the end zone.
Walters said he supports the coaching staff and wouldn’t say whether or not he agreed with the call.
As for his own contract situation, he said he’s had talks with Bombers president and chief executive officer Wade Miller and wants to be back.
His status won’t affect future plans or negotiations with O’Shea and players, he said.
“None of the decisions I make are factored into my situation whatsoever,” Walters, 43, said. “All of my decisions are based on what’s the best for the team and the best for the organization.”Report Typo/Error