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  • With players like Kevin Glenn, the Redblacks appear ahead of the Renegades.The new format for the CFL's latest expansion draft was intended to ensure that the 2013 version of the Ottawa football club didn't start out as badly as the 2002 version that ended up 4-14 in its inaugural season.

    Barring something disastrous happening between now and the opening of training camp, it's a case of mission accomplished. The Redblacks won't necessarily be any better than the Renegades -- a lot can happen between now and the next Grey Cup -- but they're certainly off to a better start.

    The two main reasons are at the most important position on the field: quarterback.

    Back in 2002, the Renegades were faced with drafting essentially the rest of the league's fourth-string quarterbacks. That left them to choose untested guys like Romaro Miller and Jason Gesser. None of the quarterbacks they selected had played a game in the CFL, a sure-fire recipe for disaster.

    This time, thanks to teams being allowed to protect only one quarterback, the Redblacks have Kevin Glenn and Thomas DeMarco. The former has played in more than 200 CFL games and has been a starter most of the last nine years. At 35, he still has some gas left in the tank so it's not like they drafted Jason Maas or Damon Allen.

    Read More »from Redblacks get off to better start than Renegades
  • Ottawa GM Marcel Desjardins said the draft is only part of building their team.Ottawa Redblacks' general manager Marcel Desjardins' remarks to a press conference and media conference call following Monday's expansion draft (see our recaps of rounds one, two and three) were most notable for the section that wasn't about the draft at all. Desjardins emphasised that this draft is just part of the process of building this expansion team, and that they'll be bringing in plenty of players from other sources as well: current free agents, CFL free agents in February, last year's Canadian draft, this year's Canadian draft and even potential trades. He made it very clear that the Redblacks didn't approach this draft as the primary way to build their team, but as part of a larger overall process.

    "It's 24 out of 85 guys," Desjardins said. "There's free agency still coming. THere's a lot of pieces yet to be put in place. If we had to start the season with those guys you mentioned, we'd be in good shape, but we're not satisfied with that. We're going to go out and add

    Read More »from Ottawa GM Marcel Desjardins says draft provides “solid foundation,” but he’ll make more moves
  • Marwan Hage, who won the Tom Pate Award in 2009, was one of Ottawa's picks Monday.The Ottawa Redblacks wrapped up Monday's expansion draft with eight third-round Canadian selections, and those included some big-name CFL veterans. Tops amongst those were Hamilton centre Marwan Hage, Toronto linebacker Jason Pottinger, Winnipeg receiver Rory Kohlert and Calgary safety Eric Fraser. All have the potential to be important contributors on the new team. However, not all of those players may wind up suiting up for the Redblacks when training camp rolls around.

    Hage in particular is interesting, as he's a guy who could wind up being one of the most important pieces for the new team, but he also might never play for them. "The Sultan" is only 32, but he just completed his 10th CFL season, all of which have been spent with the Tiger-Cats (after they drafted him 14th overall out of Colorado in 2004). He has deep ties in the Hamilton area, and may not be eager to leave; he could retire, or threaten to retire if he isn't traded back to the Tiger-Cats. He is still under contract, though, and the Redblacks also do have a lot of money to work with; they could renegotiate and offer him a potentially-lucrative extension. If he does elect to go to Ottawa, he'd give them a solid veteran presence at one of the most important spots on the offensive line. Hage is a four-time CFLPA all-star and was also selected as a league all-star in 2010, plus he was given the Tom Pate Award in 2009 for his sportsmanship and community contributions. He'd bring an impressive dimension to the Redblacks' offence, and he could be a key figure for them off the field as well.

    Read More »from Fraser, Hage, Kohlert and Pottinger top Ottawa’s third-round picks, but will they go there?
  • Keith Shologan (bundled up at the 2010 Grey Cup) was picked by Ottawa Monday.While the Ottawa Redblacks' first round of expansion draft selections Monday (live chat here) was relatively conservative, general manager Marcel Desjardins made a bigger splash in the second round, picking several prominent Canadians from across the league. Three of the most notable picks are guys who have largely made their mark in the trenches; Saskatchewan defensive tackle Keith Shologan, Toronto offensive guard Joe Eppele and Calgary offensive guard J'Michael Deane. The fourth particularly interesting pick is Montreal fullback/tight end Patrick Lavoie, a talented blocker and pass catcher. All of those guys (and Ottawa's other four second-round selections) could potentially be key players for them going forward.

    Shologan in particular is an enticing pick, as he's a Canadian who's played very well at a position that often goes to imports. After a solid NCAA career at the University of Central Florida, he's been with the Roughriders since they drafted him fourth overall in 2008, and he's been a crucial player on their defensive line. He was picked as the Most Valuable Canadian in a losing cause in the 2010 Grey Cup, and he started at tackle for them in this year's Grey Cup, playing a key role on a defensive front that frequently had Hamilton quarterback Henry Burris under pressure and was able to almost completely eliminate the Tiger-Cats' ground game. He's only 28, and he's coming off a season that saw him record a career-high four sacks, plus he's under contract for at least another year. It may be difficult to draw Shologan, an Alberta native who's played in Saskatchewan for his whole CFL career, to Ottawa, but the Redblacks have plenty of money (thanks to entering this year without any bad contracts), and if he refuses to play for them, they should be able to get substantial considerations in a trade. If he does play for them, though, he could be one of their first Canadian stars.

    Read More »from Shologan, Lavoie, Eppele and Deane highlight the Redblacks’ second-round picks
  • Kevin Glenn will likely wear red and black again this year, but in Ottawa.Much of the discussion leading up to Monday's Ottawa expansion draft (live chat here) was about which way the Redblacks would go at quarterback. Would they opt for a high-profile but risky pick like Drew Tate or Zach Collaros, or would they play it safe and avoid pending free agents like Collaros? The team chose the latter route in Monday's first round, with general manager Marcel Desjardins selecting Calgary quarterback Kevin Glenn and B.C. quarterback Thomas DeMarco (along with six other American players). While some are praising them for bringing in an experienced quarterback like Glenn as well as a young player in DeMarco, from this corner it looks like a flawed strategy that could hurt the team in the long run.

    The principle problem with taking Glenn in particular is his age; he'll be 35 by the time the 2014 season starts. Yes, some will cite him as a "veteran presence" who can help the team "compete right away" while a young quarterback develops, but is that really true? Glenn has plenty of CFL experience, to be sure, but it's not like the younger quarterbacks available in this draft are exactly green. DeMarco will only be 25 by the time next season starts, but he's played two CFL seasons and has thrown 204 passes in the league, many as a starter in place of the injured Travis Lulay this season. Collaros will turn 26 during next season, but has also spent two years in the CFL and thrown 298 passes, many while filling in for Ricky Ray this year. Tate will turn 30 in 2014 and has spent five years in the CFL, throwing 381 passes along the way. Of course, they're not as experienced as 13-year CFL veteran Glenn, but all of those guys (and several other quarterbacks who were available) have shown they can step in and play right now.

    Read More »from Ottawa Redblacks go conservative with QBs, plucking Kevin Glenn and Thomas DeMarco
  • The Ottawa Redblacks get to pick players from across the CFL Monday.The Ottawa Redblacks are set to pick 24 players from across the CFL in Monday's three-round expansion draft, and we'll have live coverage of their selections here. (You can watch the CFL video feed here.) The Redblacks will choose eight import players (one from each team) in the first round, which will be announced shortly after 11 a.m. Eastern, then eight non-import players (one from each team) in the second and third rounds, which will be announced shortly after 12:30 p.m. Eastern and 3:30 p.m. Eastern respectively. They'll have tough decisions to make, including which quarterbacks to grab and whether they should target pending free agents. Tune in below starting at 11 a.m. Eastern to find out how the CFL's newest team is going to build its roster.

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    Read More »from Ottawa Redblacks expansion draft live chat
  • Ottawa GM Marcel Desjardins might be well-advised to get aggressive about QBs.A key subplot with Monday's Ottawa expansion draft is the idea of pending free agents; there are many more than usual across the CFL this year, and that's reportedly thanks to teams electing to delay new contracts for their players (or at least the official announcement of those contracts) until after the expansion draft. That forces the new Ottawa franchise into a game of chicken, where they can either ignore pending free agents entirely or draft them and risk getting nothing for the selection. If we're to believe Redblacks' general manager Marcel Desjardins' comments to Tim Baines of The Ottawa Sun earlier this week, he'll be taking the former tactic, at least with regards to quarterbacks. However, that may be ill-advised, especially at that position. First, here's what Desjardins told Baines:

    . "Some of the better young (quarterbacks) are free agents so we won't go that route, but there are at least three guys that are interesting to us, guys that are still under contract for next year. When you look at the list and see who's available, you're probably going to get an older guy and a younger guy."

    There may be some value to the conservative approach of not taking pending free agents, as that does enable Ottawa to ensure they'll land players they draft. However, Desjardins and his staff will have to weigh the benefits of that against the perils of missing out on top players, and at quarterback in particular, that could be problematic. Keep in mind that there will be only nine starting quarterback jobs in the CFL next year, and most of them are already set: as discussed back in October, there are essentially two and only two landing spots for starting quarterbacks this offseason, in Winnipeg and Ottawa. The Blue Bombers didn't make a move for a quarterback before the Dec. 8 roster freeze (which prevented teams from trading with anyone other than Ottawa this week), so that lets the Redblacks essentially take their pick of unprotected quarterbacks (and each team can only protect one). If, say, Toronto's Zach Collaros is the top guy on their board, passing him over merely because he's a pending free agent seems like a poor idea. Yes, Collaros could theoretically refuse to sign with Ottawa and hit free agency in February, but where's he going to land? Winnipeg is the only real alternative destination where he could get an opportunity to start (and the salary boost that comes with that), and if the Redblacks take Collaros, they'd have exclusive negotiating rights to him for the next few months. The Bombers might not want to wait that long to solve their quarterback situation.

    Read More »from Conservative approach of avoiding free agents may not benefit Ottawa at quarterback
  • Mark Washington is B.C.'s new defensive coordinator.It's an offseason of change for the B.C. Lions, with the team electing to part ways with both offensive coordinator Jacques Chapdelaine and defensive coordinator Rich Stubler. They found Stubler's replacement internally, tabbing long-time defensive backs coach Mark Washington for a promotion Thursday, but they've reportedly been passed over by top offensive coordinator choices George Cortez (who currently holds that job in Saskatchewan) and Paul LaPolice (who's elected to stay with TSN). There are still plenty of options out there, though, and it's going to be interesting to see if B.C. elects to follow what they did with Washington by tabbing a first-time coordinator on offence as well, or if they opt for a more experienced hire.

    Read More »from B.C. promotes Mark Washington to DC, but the search for a new OC is still on
  • Hamilton owner/caretaker Bob Young thinks the CFL should look at working with the NFL.Hamilton Tiger-Cats' owner/caretaker Bob Young wrote an interesting post on his Tumblr this week (via Jaime Stein) about the CFL and the possibility of the NFL coming to Canada, which is in the news again thanks to the ongoing Bills in Toronto series and the discussions about a potential Jon Bon Jovi/MLSE partnership to buy the Bills and move them to Toronto full-time. Young makes a strong and passionate argument for the value of the CFL, which is something many Canadians would agree with; it's notable that a poll earlier this month suggested even Toronto residents don't want the NFL at the CFL's expense. However, arguments on their own only do so much good without accompanying practical solutions, and the solutions Young advances are particularly interesting. His first proposal is that the CFL needs to convince executives like Postmedia executive (and longtime NFL-in-Toronto lobbyist) Paul Godfrey and corporations like Rogers (which runs the Bills-in-Toronto series) of its value, and while that's certainly a good idea, it's not exactly the easiest thing to do. His second proposal, though, is much more notable and potentially attainable: that the CFL partner with the NFL in some formal fashion:

    And secondly we must partner with the National Football League in an organized and mutually profitable way. It is already true that CFL coaches and general managers, whether Canadian or American have many friends among their counterparts in the NFL teams. The CFL league office has more in common with the NFL league office (and vice versa) than they do with any other institution on the planet. After all, the CFL and NFL are the only two “gridiron” football leagues.

    The National Football league is a lot like the Canadian Football League, being a collection of teams who banded together to form an institution dedicated to their collective success. Our leagues are among the most successful cooperatives in the history of business anywhere. We have more incentive to cooperate with each other than any two businesses you could name.

    That plan may raise the hackles of some CFL fans who are fervently anti-NFL at all costs, but there's actually good logic here. A prosperous CFL helps the NFL on several fronts. For one thing, it serves as a player-development system. Players like Cameron Wake, Brandon Browner and Jerrell Freeman have gone from CFL stars to NFL stars, and others like Kory Sheets may follow. There really aren't a lot of alternatives out there for players past college who can't quite crack the NFL initially, as the UFL has folded and the AFL still has plenty of issues in the wake of Arena Football 1's 2009 bankruptcy, and there needs to be something; NFL teams bring 90 guys to camp in the offseason now, but only keep 61 (53 active, eight on the practice roster). A lot of those NFL camp cuts wind up in the CFL, and some of them develop to a point where they're capable of going back to the NFL.

    Read More »from Ticats’ Bob Young suggests CFL partner with NFL “in an organized and mutually profitable way”
  • Grey Cup MVP Kory Sheets could be off to the NFL.Grey Cup MVP Kory Sheets may have played his last game for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Sportsnet's Arash Madani reported Tuesday that Sheets, a pending free agent, is looking at NFL options and has a workout set up with the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts in particular might represent an intriguing opportunity for Sheets, as general manager Ryan Grigson is quite familiar with the talent in the CFL; one of his first moves as Colts' GM in 2012 was to nab Saskatchewan linebacker Jerrell Freeman, a CFL star who's since become one of the NFL's best linebackers, recording 145 tackles last year (fifth-highest in the league). However, given that Sheets' CFL contract runs until February 15, there will be plenty of time for other NFL teams to take a look at him too, and if those opportunities don't work out, there may be plenty of other CFL teams interested as well. What are the chances Sheets winds up in a Roughriders' uniform again?

    Read More »from Kory Sheets to work out for the Colts; will he follow Jerrell Freeman to Indy, or land elsewhere?


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