Redblacks roster shake-up continues on day two of free agency

After an action-packed first day of CFL free agency on Tuesday, day two did not disappoint. A number of big names found themselves new homes on Wednesday, perhaps letting the opening day dust settle and getting a clearer picture of the marketplace.

In Redblacksland, the day was notable for a couple of free agent losses and one signing. First, the bad news:

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The signing has since been confirmed. Capicciotti and his 12 sacks will be sorely missed on a DL that has also lost Shawn Lemon (NFL, er SSK) and Keith Shologan (WPG) since the Grey Cup game. 

Then:

After taking over from Chevon Walker as the starting RB at mid-season, JJ emerged as a real difference-maker in the Redblacks offense. In his seven starts (10 games total), Johnson amassed an impressive 448 rushing yards, 267 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. He also emerged as a leader in the locker room.

Unfortunately, Johnson’s season would be cut short by a foot injury, and William Powell took over the starting job in early October. It was Powell’s performance the rest of the season and into the playoffs that ultimately made Johnson expendable, as the Canadian ratio makes it difficult for CFL teams to carry two American running backs. 

Johnson will be missed. So will his TD celebrations. 

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Now for the good news:

The 27-year-old Gascon-Nadon is a 3-year CFL veteran, originally drafted by Hamilton in 2012 (3rd round, 17th overall). He spent a year at Rice University (2008) before coming back and winning two Vanier Cups (2010 & 2012) at Laval.

As a pro, Gascon-Nadon has appeared in a total of 20 games, though his first start on the Hamilton defensive line was actually in the Eastern Final against Ottawa, filling in for the injured Eric Norwood.

Yes, Ottawa fans only memory of him might be the interception he didn’t make prior to #2ndAnd25, but Gascon-Nadon is not here for his receiving ability. He is a highly regarded DL prospect, who also contributed on special teams in 2015, with 11 tackles.

Another action-packed day in the books for the Redblacks. Here are Ottawa’s remaining unsigned free agents:

QB DeMarco, Thomas
LB Green, James
WR Henry, Marcus
LB Hinds, David
DE Marshall, Andrew
DE Smith, Marlon
DB Thompson, Brandyn
LB/FB Verdone, Jordan

Thanks for reading!

@DefendTheR

Photo credit: Toronto Sun

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Redblacks sign QB Harris, FB Gillanders on first day of free agency

If there’s one thing you can say for certain about Ottawa Redblacks GM Marcel Desjardins it’s that he doesn’t mess around. When a need is identified, he fills it. In 2015, it was the signing of four high-profile receivers (and trading for a fifth) along with the best left tackle available in SirVincent Rogers. When DE Aston Whiteside went down with an injury at mid-season, Shawn Lemon was signed and in town days later.

With the unofficial start of the CFL’s 2016 off-season on Tuesday at noon, Desjardins stayed true to form and wasted little time in signing former Argonauts QB Trevor Harris. The 30-year-old Harris is coming off a breakout year in Toronto. Here’s a screen grab of his career stats:

 

His 71% completion percentage and 33 TD passes last year were both tops in the CFL.

Ottawa fans are likely quite familiar with Harris, who led the Argos to a 3-0 record against the Redblacks, including torching them for 397 yards and 5 TDs in the infamous Argos ‘home’ game played at TD Place in Ottawa on October 6th.

#1 QB in 2017

While contract figures are never officially official in the CFL, reports have it that Harris’ two-year deal is weighted heavily in the second year (to the tune of $400,000). Makes perfect sense, as the QB job is (and rightfully should be) Henry Burris’ in 2016. The plan is for Harris to serve as back-up to Burris this season, taking over the reigns as starting QB in 2017.

And, as he told TSN 1200 Tuesday afternoon, Harris is completely on board with the plan.

Desjardins got his man and the Redblacks QB position looks set for at least the next couple years.

Orleans/Gee Gees product coming home

  
Photo: Windsor Star

Though the signing (made official later Tuesday afternoon) didn’t capture many headlines, the Redblacks also added FB Brendan Gillanders, also ex of the Argos. The Ottawa (Orleans) native and University of Ottawa Gee Gees product will fill the open FB position (Jordan Verdone will not be back) and play a key role on Bob Dyce’s revamped special teams unit. In his second pro season, Gillanders appeared in 17 games, compiling 14 special teams tackles. He added another 104 yards on 7 catches in a limited offensive role.

UPDATE: Forgot to note Gillanders was the Argos special teams captain in 2015. Thanks to this piece from Gord Holder for the reminder.

Redblacks FAs find new homes

DL Keith Shologan (WPG) and DB Jovon Johnson (MTL) were the first two now-former Redblacks to sign elsewhere. Both played significant roles in the franchise’s first two seasons and will be missed.

The re-signing of DL Zack Evans signalled the end of Shologan’s time in Ottawa, while moving on from Johnson may be an indication the Redblacks will try to get bigger in the secondary.

Thanks for reading!

@DefendTheR

Header photo credit: CFL.ca

OSEG & Redblacks submit bid for 2017 Grey Cup; Ottawa’s GC history

Canada’s 150th birthday celebration in the capital is a step closer to securing another major event. In fact, perhaps the biggest one of them all.

What’s long been rumoured / speculated / expected will soon be set in motion at Ottawa city council, and on Monday, the Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group (OSEG) confirmed their bid for the 2017 Grey Cup has been submitted to the CFL board of governors.

And while the awarding of the 105th Grey Cup may be pretty much a done deal, the pressure is definitely on the Redblacks to make it something special, befitting of the country’s sesquicentennial. 

(I had to look that up).

Some elements to consider:

Half-time show: Securing a big name half time act is key and you have to think there will be pressure to go Canadian. Lots of very talented Canadians doing great things in music, but this could be tough. Could they get someone like Drake to do it? Are groups like the Sam Roberts Band or Sheepdogs a big enough draw? Kardinal Offishall featuring Neil Young or Anne Murray?

Stadium upgrades: It’s always nice to show off a little when hosting friends from out of town, so why not throw a few extra bucks into TD Place? An east-end scoreboard would be amazing. Some work on the North Side concessions would be welcome, too.

Alumni: Bring in as many as you can find to as many events as possible. Renegades included. And we need lots of quality Russ Jackson time. Would be an opportune time to have a statue of the legend made.

Parliament Hill: Do something really cool there. Maybe a good start or end for the Grey Cup parade.

Another Trudeau Kick-Off? I’m not a huge fan of mixing sports & politics, but those Pierre Trudeau kick-offs are a great slice of Canadiana. Great opportunity to re-kindle the memories and give Justin some air time. So camera-shy, that one.

There will be plenty of time to discuss these and other ideas for making Grey Cup 105 the best event it can be. But before we look too far forward, let’s take a quick peek back at Ottawa’s history as Grey Cup hosts.

1925 Grey Cup

In the 12th Grey Cup game, played on Dec. 5th, your Ottawa Senators Football Club defeated the Winnipeg Tammany Tigers 24-1 in front of 6,900 rowdy Ottawans at Lansdowne Park. This would also be Ottawa’s first Grey Cup championship. Huzzah!

1939 Grey Cup

Played on Dec. 9th, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers edged the home town Ottawa Rough Riders 8-7 in the 27th edition. The home team was robbed, no doubt. 

1940 Grey Cup

Bit of an asterisk here, as the 28th Grey Cup was a two-game total points series between the Toronto Balmy Beach Beachers (terrible name) and the Ottawa Rough Riders. Games were played Nov. 30th (Toronto’s Varsity Stadium) and Dec. 7th (Lansdowne Park). The Riders took both ends of the series – by scores of 8-2 and 12-5 – to win Ottawa’s third Grey Cup.

1967 Grey Cup

It would be 27 long years before Ottawa would again host the Grey Cup. Played on Dec. 2nd, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats beat the heck out of Saskatchewan 24-1. 31,358 showed up to watch.

WATCH: Short film from the National Film Board on the 1967 Grey Cup (h/t to @pinemud)

1988 Grey Cup

Ottawa waited another 21 years for their next opportunity to play host. The 76th edition of the Grey Cup was played on Nov. 27th, with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers edging the BC Lions 22-21. Our friends at Wikipedia capture the storylines nicely:

This was the first Grey Cup game between two teams from west of Ontario, and the first to be won by a team which had only a .500 season.

Crossover. Yuck.

2004 Grey Cup
 
This event was essentially the swan song for the Ottawa Renegades franchise. During Grey Cup week, the Ottawa Sun broke the story that Brad Watters’ ownership group was working on selling the three-year-old franchise to the father-son-ownership-group-that-shall-not-be-named.

The game took place on Nov. 21st, with the Damon Allen-led Toronto Argonauts defeating the Lions 27-19.

I was fortunate enough to attend this game. My first Grey Cup, in fact. Couple of blurry memories:

  • While I had my ticket on me, no one ever asked to see it nor was it ever scanned. Honour system, I guess. 
  • Shortly after Allen took the field for the first time, I made sure to yell out “Ho-bart!” Yep, I’m that awesome.
  • Metal benches on the South Side upper deck weren’t ideal on a chilly night. Not that I really had a chance to get cold with so many people rammed into each row. More like seat suggestions, really. Very sardine can-like.
  • Getting to the bathroom at halftime was probably the worst experience of my life. Missed all of the Tragically Hip and about the first eight minutes of the 3rd quarter.

What will Grey Cup 105 (Presented by Shaw) have in store for Ottawa? No doubt a home game would be music to #RNation’s ears.

Speaking of which:

  

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