Bombers' Jefferson optimistic about chances of signing NFL contract with Dolphins
Willie Jefferson is in a holding pattern for now, but is highly optimistic that he’ll soon sign a contract with the Miami Dolphins of the NFL.
The CFL’s most outstanding defensive player in 2019, who played a huge role in helping the Winnipeg Blue Bombers win the Grey Cup for the first time in 29 years, had a solid workout with the Dolphins at the beginning of December and is now playing the waiting game.
The 28-year-old all-star defensive end has played six seasons in the CFL with Edmonton, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg and is ready to take another shot at the NFL after previous unsuccessful tryouts with the Houston Texans (2013), Buffalo Bills (2014) and Washington Redskins (2016).
A pending CFL free agent in February, Jefferson believes the Dolphins, who went 5-11 this season, are interested but are also going through numerous changes to the coaching personnel under head coach Brian Flores.
“You don’t know what the coaching change and stuff is gonna be,” Jefferson said Friday from his home in Port Arthur, Texas.
“It’s really been just like a waiting game for me and my agent. I feel like when I did the workout, we spoke and everything and the coaches seemed to like me. So I’m just waiting.”
Jefferson has worked out for many NFL teams in the past, including three just last off-season, before he signed a one-year contract with the Bombers.
There’s a difference this year, however.
Now he has become a complete player, the whole package at defensive end. That’s certainly what impressed voters for the CFL awards and it’s what has caught the attention of NFL scouts.
“It’s just my mindset,” Jefferson said. “I’m going through these workouts knowing they don’t want just a one-dimensional player, they want somebody that can do everything, that can stop the run, pass rush and also drop into coverage.
“Me going into the off-season, doing workouts, compared to me going into the off-season doing workouts in other years, I feel like I’m more of a complete player. I can drop into coverage, stop the run and pass rush and I have greater knowledge of the game.”
Jefferson was a one-man wrecking crew for the Bombers in 2019, recording 12 quarterback sacks, six forced fumbles and 16 pass knockdowns. In a 33-12 Grey Cup win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, he had three sacks and two forced fumbles.
He is in no rush to find out what the Dolphins have to offer. He’s enjoying his time at home with his wife and daughter, friends and family, and is still basking in the glow of a tremendous season that ended with the Bombers hoisting the Grey Cup in November in Calgary.
Jefferson is under contract with the Bombers until Feb. 11, but the team already released Jonathan Kongbo (signed with San Francisco), Marcus Sayles (Minnesota) and Winston Rose (Cincinnati) to pursue NFL opportunities and you’d expect they’d do the same for their star rush end.
“I understand from when I did the workout with Miami, word got around how good the workout was,” Jefferson said. “I was scheduled to go to a couple other places but my agent and I decided with the workout going so good in Miami, we were gonna try to not do so many other ones.
“I feel like with the film I put out and how good I did this past season, I didn’t really need to keep doing a whole lot of workouts. These teams know who I am, they know what I can do and they know what I can bring to the table.”
At the end of the season, as the Bombers celebrated their Grey Cup win with a parade through downtown Winnipeg, Jefferson proclaimed that the city felt like home for him and that there was nowhere else he would rather be.
Still, NFL opportunities are a different story.
“Me being from the States, having the opportunity to play in the NFL and seeing the things the NFL brings to the lifestyle of a person and his family … I would like to get back to that,” Jefferson said.
“If the opportunity doesn’t arise in the NFL I have no problem coming back to the CFL. Most definitely I’d like to come back to Winnipeg.
“It’s a good fit for me, with the coaching staff and the guys that are gonna be there. If I do have a chance to get back to Winnipeg, I want to get back with those guys and try to do something special.”
Jefferson happy to see teammates getting NFL opportunities
Willie Jefferson is thrilled for his three Blue Bombers teammates who have already signed NFL contracts this off-season and he’s hoping to join them soon.
The star defensive end has been waiting patiently for an offer from the Miami Dolphins, while teammates Jonathan Kongbo, Marcus Sayles and Winston Rose have signed deals with the San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals, respectively.
“Those guys put in a lot of hard work this season, put out some great film and showed their skills,” Jefferson said. “Those guys are 24, 25-years old and this is a great opportunity for them. They had a chance to be in the CFL and better their skills sets. Now that they’re going to the NFL they’ll be equipped to handle themselves better. Having a chance to earn a little bit more money to take care of their families is good for them.”
Jefferson believes his season in Winnipeg should be enough to earn him a contract south of the border as well.
“Winning defensive player of the year, being nominated for most outstanding player … coming down to it, I did exactly what I came to Winnipeg to do,” Jefferson said. “I came to be a dominant defensive player and end the drought and bring the Grey Cup to the city. We did just that.”
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