Change is in the air in Winnipeg. The Blue Bombers are going to play in a new stadium this year, and with the releases of quarterback Joey Elliott and Canadian safety Ian Logan officially announced Tuesday, it's clear there are going to be some different faces on that new field. Neither release is particularly surprising, but these are both players who were considered crucial parts of this franchise at one point. Moving on without them demonstrates the Bombers are trying to head in a new direction.
For Elliott, his Bombers' tenure had moments of sky-high potential, but that potential wasn't consistently met. He joined the team in July 2010, but was quickly thrust into a starting role when both Buck Pierce and Alex Brink went down and he was the only healthy quarterback left standing. Elliott showed enough promise that the team elected to move forward without signing a big name, though, and he filled the gap until Pierce returned. After 2010, there were even discussions if the Bombers might be best suited moving to Elliott or Brink as their starter given Pierce's injury issues. Elliott's stats in limited play that year weren't great (47.9 per cent completion rate, 435 passing yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions), but he showed enough promise that some thought he might be Winnipeg's quarterback of the future.
That never came to pass, though. Elliott received a great opportunity early in 2011 when Pierce again went down, but he tore his ACL in July and was out for the rest of the year. 2012 was better, and there were moments when the former Purdue star looked like one of the CFL's best quarterbacks (specifically, his 33-for-43 performance for 406 yards against Hamilton in August and his 335-yard, three-touchdown showing against Montreal in October, both of which earned him offensive player of the week honours). His overall completion percentage was 60.7 per cent, not bad for a quarterback without a ton of CFL experience, and he threw for 2,101 yards, the most of any Winnipeg quarterback last season. However, his decision-making was often questionable, and he threw 12 interceptions against just five touchdowns.
The Bombers have obviously decided that Elliott's potential isn't enough reason to keep him around, so they'll be going with other quarterbacks (Pierce, Brink and Justin Goltz at the moment, plus whoever they bring in as competition). What will be interesting is watching to see if any other CFL team's willing to take a chance on Elliott. He's not going to land a starting job right now, but someone might be interested in him as a backup with upside, and he's only 26. We'll see if CFL teams are more intrigued by Elliott's strong performances or wary of his propensity to throw picks.
The Logan move appears more of a straight attempt to get younger. After being picked up as an undrafted free agent out of Wilfrid Laurier University, Logan played pretty well for the Bombers from 2006-2012. He largely served as the team's starting safety from 2008 on, and he was named a league all-star in 2011. Logan turns 31 in August, though, and the Bombers seem to want to go in a different direction. His obvious replacement is Cauchy Muamba, the former Lions' starting safety (and older brother of Winnipeg linebacker Henoc Muamba) the Bombers signed earlier this offseason, and Muamba turns just 26 in May. The initial thinking seemed to be that Muamba and Logan would battle it out for the starting safety job in camp, but that seems to have changed; perhaps the Bombers are more confident in Muamba now and will try and land a backup for him in the draft, or perhaps they already have another backup in mind. Regardless, this seems more about making room for Muamba than axing Logan.
In and of themselves, these aren't necessarily huge moves for the Bombers. Logan and Elliott were both coming into camp as projected backups, so moving on from them may not change how the Winnipeg lineup looks on opening day. However, these changes may mean more from a symbolic standpoint. At one time, both Logan and Elliott were seen as key parts of this franchise's future. That's clearly not the case any more. It will be interesting to watch who the team goes with instead and how that works out.