Tuesday, 17 February 2015
A Little Love for "Thick Nik"
Stampeders boss John Hufnagel hasn't expressed very much interest in bringing the Stampeder great back. It doesn't appear as though many other teams are very interested either, as Lewis has been a free agent for an entire week now with very few rumours surrounding his name. The lack of interest in "Geronimo Jones" somewhat baffles me, as I feel like all nine teams should at least check the price tag on Lewis and give him an offer.
First of all, Lewis is one the best to ever catch a football in CFL history. While his production has certainly trailed off recently, he is still just two years removed from nine straight 1,000-yard seasons, something very few players have accomplished.
The biggest question surrounding "Thick Nik" is if he'll ever be able to bounce back from the his broken fibula that ended his season prematurely in 2013. This will be Lewis' first offseason since he suffered the injury where he won't be rehabbing his leg and can focus solely on his game, something he admits the injury prevented him from doing prior to the 2014 campaign.
Lewis has also stated that the injury affected his speed and route running at the beginning of last season, but he felt like he regained his step near the end and, as a result, played more snaps in October and November than he did in July and August. Even if Lewis' ankle injury is a thing of the past, what can teams realistically expect from him on the field?
While playing limited snaps thanks to Calgary's loaded receiving corps, Lewis managed to haul in 400 yards and three touchdowns in 2013 prior to the injury and followed that up with 37 receptions for 377 yards in 2014. Keep in mind, at 32 years old, Lewis isn't that old and could contribute a solid 500 yards on a team where he wasn't the odd-man out every time his team needed to start a Canadian because of ratio issues. Lewis is also known for his big blocks downfield, something that age or a broken fibula can't take away from him. Around 500 yards from Nik Lewis would be a bonus, as it's what he brings on the sidelines and away from the field that makes him worth the money.
You know exactly what you are getting from Nik Lewis away from the field as a teammate and a person: a winner, a well-respected leader, a motivator, a competitor and an outgoing personality that's always entertaining and good for a quote. Lewis would walk in on the first day of training camp and already have the respect of his peers. He'll be in a position to immediately mentor the younger players with 11 seasons under his belt and he's also a two-time Grey Cup champion that brings a winning attitude to the organization, something Winnipeg and Ottawa both could use. Best of all, you could get all this on a rental contract with a low price.
We know Nik Lewis is willing to accept a smaller role on another team. He sat in the backseat in 2014 with Calgary and not once did you hear the nine-time 1,000-yard receiver complain. Nik understands he's nearing the end of his career and his best days are behind him, so I expect his asking price to match his role as a depth receiver. That asking price also may have dropped by now with few teams expressing interest while Nik still wants to play another year. Lewis would slot in as the fourth or fifth receiver on most teams, which would make 500 yards from the big-guy very impressive and worth every penny.
While many teams have made it clear they don't plan on signing any more international receivers in free agency, I still fully expect Nik Lewis to find a new home come June. In fact, all nine teams should be showing interest in Thick Nik. There won't be any bidding wars over the 32-year old, but likely some offers from teams looking to go on a Grey Cup run or are looking for an experienced veteran that brings just as much, if not more, to the table off the field than on it.
As weird as it would be to see Nik Lewis playing a game without the horseshoe on his helmet, I can only hope it's my team, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, that picks up the always entertaining, 240-pound pass-catcher from Southern Arkansas.
Nik Lewis provides more than just touchdowns and big blocks, and I assume other teams know that and take a chance on the Stampeders legend.