Ottawa GM Marcel Desjardins says draft provides “solid foundation,” but he’ll make more moves

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 better."

He said not everyone the team selected is going to suit up for the Redblacks, either, as the team did pick one pending free agent (Winnipeg receiver Rory Kohlert), and other players might elect to retire or be traded before next summer.

"I wouldn't promise that they'd all be at camp," Desjardins said. "Teams will see what we've been able to acquire now. They may be reaching out to us, and that doesn't mean we won't reach out to them."

One of the most interesting things Desjardins mentioned is that the Redblacks'conservative quarterback drafting approach that led to them taking Calgary's Kevin Glenn and B.C.'s Thomas DeMarco may not be what gives them their starting pivot in the end, and that neither is guaranteed to be the team's starter. He said that the team plans to talk to several quarterbacks who are pending free agents if they do hit free agency; that could potentially include Toronto's Zach Collaros, perhaps the hottest name on the market, but a guy the Redblacks avoided drafting thanks to that status. Collaros may not be there, as it's certainly possible Winnipeg or another team could swing a deal for him (or that the Argonauts could extend his contract) before February, but if he does hit free agency, he'd likely be an Ottawa target. Desjardins said the Redblacks aren't going to be passive on the quarterback front.

"There's no reason we can't be aggressive in that area," he said. "There's three or four obvious guys out there and we'll certainly reach out to them when the time comes."

For now, though, the most likely opening-day starter in Ottawa is CFL veteran Kevin Glenn, who head coach Rick Campbell knows from their shared time in Calgary. Campbell said he's happy to be working with Glenn again.

"Kevin's excited, he's the consummate pro, he's a team guy, and without even prompting he talked about all the pros there are here in Ottawa," Campbell said. "He's going to be excited to be here, that's for sure."

Campbell worked mostly on the defensive side of the ball during Glenn's time in Calgary, serving as the Stampeders' defensive coordinator for the last two seasons, but he said he still was able to forge a strong connection with the pivot.

"I've always had a good relationship with Kevin," Campbell said. "We would have good conversations about what we were doing in practice and vice-versa."

We'll see how things play out over the course of the offseason. There certainly are more steps ahead in the building of this Ottawa franchise, and Desjardins sounds like he's going to make some more splashy moves. Still, this expansion was a crucial day for the Redblacks, and it may well be their primary source of proven CFL players. Desjardins said it gives them something to build on.

"This is a solid foundation," Desjardins said. "It will allow us to be competitive."

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