The longest serving Blue Bombers will be wearing new colors in 2016, as the team announced today that DT Bryant Turner Jr. and SB Clarence Denmark, who were both signed in 2011, had been released.
Turner Jr., who appeared in 53 games over five seasons, recorded 89 tackles and 26 sacks during his time in Winnipeg. Once known as one of best players at his position, the UAB product battled several injuries over the years and played on several bad defenses that prevented him from living up to his contract. Once the initial wave of free agency passed and the Bombers walked away with former Argos DT Euclid Cummings, 24, under contract, it was clear that Turner Jr.’s days as a Bomber were numbered.
Denmark, similarly to Turner Jr., was a salary cap casualty. With the additions of Ryan Smith and Weston Dressler from Saskatchewan, the Bombers simply could not afford to employ three American pass-catchers earning between $150k to $190k. The obvious odd man out of the trio was Denmark, 30, who recorded only 718 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2015.
Denmark caught 306 passes for 4,165 yards and 16 touchdowns with the Bombers, only ever missing three games in five seasons. He was durable, reliable and, at times, spectacular, surpassing 1,000 receiving yards in one season for the first time in 2014 – his first season as the go-to with relatively stable quarterbacking.
Ideally, the Bombers likely would’ve preferred to keep Denmark. As was the case throughout most of his time in Winnipeg, Denmark played with five different quarterbacks in 2015, and was also stuck in Marcel Bellefeuille’s system.
But unlike last year and several before, the Bombers may have found one or more American, rookie pass-catchers that may have a bright future in the league. Although it will be a completely open competition to replace Denmark, who I fully expect to sign with Calgary, don’t be surprised if a former Baylor stud, Tevin Reese, 5-foot-10, 170-lbs, wins the job out of training camp. But there are also a few other intriguing names that have a good chance to replace Denmark as well.
Denmark and Turner Jr. were two players that deserved better over their careers in Winnipeg. Unfortunately, together they were stuck on terrible Bombers teams for four straight seasons. And neither complained.
Both will surely receive several teams calling for their services, and have many effective seasons still in the tank. A change of scenery could do wonders.
Although, as a fan, it isn’t pleasant to see Denmark and Turner Jr. go, it’s difficult to argue against the thinking of the Bombers’ brass in this situation.