Karikari joins Bombers after snub by Matthews
HERB ZURKOWSKY, The Gazette
Richard Karikari has all but decided to leave the Alouettes and sign with Winnipeg as a free agent. The Canadian safety said Doug Berry, the Blue Bombers' new head coach and Montreal's former offensive co-ordinator, played a pivotal role.
"I look at the little things. Doug Berry called me four or five times," Karikari told The Gazette last night. "For me, from my standpoint, those are the little things I look at. There were a lot of different factors. Obviously, money was a little part of it. But it's also about coaching and the type of team I'm going to."
Although Karikari spoke to Als general manager Jim Popp yesterday - the same time the Bombers made a final offer - the player said he found it "shocking" that he never heard from Montreal head coach Don Matthews.
The contract hasn't been signed and the deal could fall through, but Karikari has reached an agreement in principle with Winnipeg on a two-year pact, including an option year.
It has been widely reported the Bombers offered a base salary of $130,000 for the upcoming season, but sources on each team said both were enticing Karikari with contracts worth more than $130,000 annually. Winnipeg's includes a signing bonus and was restructured yesterday. The player's base salary was an estimated $62,500 last season.
"You know something, the difference in the two offers wasn't ridiculous," Karikari said. "They were pretty close. We're not talking about $40,000 or $50,000. It's a good contract and the numbers are pretty decent."
Drafted in the second round (14th overall) in 2003, Karikari spent three seasons with the Als, becoming a starter in 2005. He intercepted nine passes - second-highest in the CFL - returning one for an 81-yard touchdown. He could be replaced by Matthieu Proulx, Montreal's first-round draft choice last season.
Karikari is leaving a team that reached the Grey Cup last season, and has been in the league's championship game three of the last four years, for a Bombers club that went 5-13.
"I'm thinking about it now and wondering whether I'm making the right decision," Karikari admitted. "Montreal will probably get to the Eastern final and Grey Cup again. Montreal has talent and depth. Jim Popp can replace anybody and the Alouettes are always going to be good."
Notes - Veteran Als slotback Terry Vaughn vehemently denied he was owed an offseason bonus payment last week, as The Gazette reported. ... The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are expected to announce the acquisition of ex-Als receiver Kwame Cavil today from Edmonton for a draft email@example.com