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.
Pottinger is another long-time CFL veteran who might not want to go to Ottawa. He's spent eight years in the league, three with B.C. after they drafted him second overall in 2006 and then the last five with Toronto, and although he's just 30, he's battled some significant injuries over the years. Retirement might not be out of the question for him. However, the Redblacks might present him with an enticing opportunity. Pottinger has long been seen as a terrific special teams player, but he's rarely been given a chance to play a regular role on defence as well. If Ottawa can at least let him compete for a starting job in the linebacking corps, that might be a good reason for him to go.
Kohlert is a much-younger player, as he's just 25, so retirement isn't a threat with him. However, he might have the worst odds of any of these players of playing for the Redblacks, as he was the only pending free agent the team selected. Ottawa can definitely use him, as they don't have a lot of Canadian receivers under contract at the moment, and the Saskatchewan Huskies' product (who went undrafted in 2009, but has received CFL stints in Hamilton in 2011 and Winnipeg from 2012-13) might be an appealing option; he has talent, even if he isn't terribly proven (he has just 55 CFL catches, and 45 of those came last year). He has the option of testing the free agent waters in February, though, so the Redblacks will have to make him a compelling offer if they want him to sign.
Fraser looks like the one player on this list who's definitively going to Ottawa, at least if his Twitter account can be trusted. He's already updated his profile bio to "FS #7 Ottawa Red Blacks" (team PR might be on him to follow their ALLCAPS guidelines), and after a series of tweets thanking the Calgary organization and fans for their support, he tweeted this:
Finally! Excited to be a part of the @REDBLACKS franchise. Not often you get to start something brand new in pro sports.
— Eric Fraser (@efraser007) December 16, 2013
That's good to see that at least one Ottawa player is enthusiastic to join the new team, and Fraser should be a solid fit for them. He held down a starting spot at free safety on a good Stampeders' defence last year, and he's just 26 with four seasons of CFL experience (following Calgary drafting him from Central Michigan in 2009). He could be a pivotal part of the Redblacks' defence and a key component in their import ratio, and unlike some of the other players here, he seems all but certain to wear an Ottawa uniform next season.
(Ottawa's other third-round selections were Saskatchewan DT Zach Evans, B.C. DE Andrew Marshall, Montreal LB Jordan Verdone and Edmonton DE Justin Capicciotti.)