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.
Moreover, the "compete right away" argument is flawed. While the draft rules were more favourable to the Redblacks than past expansion drafts have been, there were still plenty of loopholes (especially around pending free agents) that limited what they could get here. Building a team from scratch is hard enough in general, too. Ottawa's set up well enough that the Redblacks shouldn't be a joke out of the gate, but it's tough to see them making a real run at a playoff spot in their inaugural year. If that's unlikely, why does it particularly matter if they go 7-11 or 3-15? The latter record is actually somewhat better from a long-term standpoint, as it would yield a higher draft pick, but the really important thing is to play and develop young talent so the team can succeed down the road. Glenn doesn't particularly fit into that picture.
What about DeMarco? He's younger, and definitely more promising in the long run than Glenn, but it's questionable if he was one of the top options available. He showed promise at some times this year, to be sure, but completed just 53.9 per cent of his passes this past season and threw 10 touchdowns with eight interceptions. Compare that to Collaros (66.2 per cent, 14/6), Tate (67.8 per cent, 5/1), Saskatchewan's Drew Willy (61.5 per cent, 4/1) and others, and DeMarco comes up short by comparison. The primary factor in choosing him was likely that he's still under contract, unlike Collaros and Willy, but that's a flawed strategy given the limited market out there for QBs. It's tough to see a player like Collaros turning down a big salary and a chance to start in Ottawa in favour of another opportunity that may or may not await at free-agency time.
Will this work out for Ottawa? Well, we'll see. Glenn certainly might have another decent year or two left; he wasn't bad for Calgary last year, completing 66.7 per cent of his passes and throwing for 2,710 yards with 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and he even kept the Stampeders' starting job near the end of the season over Tate and Bo Levi Mitchell (although he struggled in the West Final and was pulled at half in favour of Tate). If the Redblacks can surround him with some capable talent, they could have an okay offence. DeMarco might accept a role as a backup and develop into a capable quarterback himself, too. However, there's also the chance that going with a short-term solution like Glenn could hinder Ottawa's ability to develop a quarterback and delay the Redblacks' development into a playoff contender. They went the safe route here, but that may not prove the best option in the end.
(Ottawa's other first-round picks: RB Chevon Walker (Hamilton), DLs Jonathan Williams (Toronto) and Moton Hopkins (Montreal), receivers Wallace Miles (Winnipeg) and Carleton Mitchell (Edmonton) and OL James Lee (Saskatchewan).)