Blue Bombers negotiating with Ekakitie; plan to take him No. 1 in draft

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers selected Iowa defensive lineman Faith Ekakitie (56) first overall. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have started contract negotiations with University of Iowa defensive lineman Faith Ekakitie and, barring a trade, will take the 24-year-old with the No. 1 overall pick in Sunday’s CFL draft.

Sources told Sportsnet that Winnipeg GM Kyle Walters has already begun talks with Ray Haija, Ekakitie’s agent, on an entry-level deal to avoid any issues after the draft. A year ago, the league’s top draft pick, offensive lineman Josiah St. John, sat out all of training camp and the opening game of the season, because of a contract dispute with Saskatchewan.

Ekakitie is originally from Brampton, Ont., and was a major part of the Iowa front the past two seasons and played in all 13 games last year as the Hawkeyes reached the Outback Bowl. He had four tackles – two for loss – in an upset win over then No. 3 Michigan in November, a decision that knocked the Wolverines out of the college football playoff.

Listed at six-foot-three and 290 pounds, Ekakitie played all four years of his NCAA eligibility with the Hawkeyes after redshirting in 2012.

Having Ekakitie in the Bombers’ defensive line rotation would provide more Canadian depth to a group that is heavy with national players. Jamaal Westerman remains the most impactful, coming off of an eight-sack season. Six-year vet Jake Thomas, out of Acadia, played 16 games last season, so too did Trent Corney, who Winnipeg drafted in 2016.

The Blue Bombers hold the No. 1 overall pick in the draft via trade from Toronto, after dealing quarterback Drew Willy to the Argonauts last September. Winnipeg also has the No. 6 selection in Sunday’s draft.

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