The Ottawa Redblacks got their 2014-15 offseason started in earnest with the acquisition of 29-year-old International WR Maurice Price from the Calgary Stampeders, wasting no time in addressing the team’s #1 need going into 2015. Ottawa sent International LB Jasper Simmons and rookie International WR Dan Buckner to Calgary in exchange for Price. Not a small price to pay, but certainly an indication of the talent the Redblacks believe they have added to their roster.
In his three CFL seasons, Price has been nearly equal parts game-breaker and injured reserve resident. When on the field, he has been impressive – 109 receptions for 1,737 yards (15.9 yards per catch) and 12 TDs, not to mention his 5 receptions for 64 yards in a 2014 Grey Cup victory this past November. And at 6’1″, 200 lbs, Price is one of the fastest receivers in the CFL. But the 29-year-old has averaged fewer than 10 regular season games a year (29 total) over that period, with a variety of ailments including a broken foot, a concussion and most recently a broken hand.
> Maurice Price looks forward to coming to Ottawa (TSN 1200)
> GM Marcel Desjardins discusses the Maurice Price acquisition (TSN 1200)
> QB Henry Burris excited to have Maurice Price join the Redblacks offense (TSN 1200)
So, Price comes to Ottawa with a certain degree of risk. He signed a three-year contract with Calgary prior to last season, reportedly paying him in the neighbourhood of $150,000 annually — a salary reserved for top-end talent in the CFL. Expectations will be high for Price to be a real difference-maker for 2014’s league-worst Redblacks offense.
As excited as Redblacks fans should be about adding “Mo” to the offense, Simmons will be missed on the defensive side. 2014 was a coming-out party for the 25-year-old, who quickly emerged as a leader and fan favourite. His 80 tackles led the way for Ottawa’s D, along with five interceptions – including the most memorable one in team history. Simmons, who actually started the year on the Redblacks practise roster, ended it as the team’s Most Outstanding Player and Most Outstanding Defensive Player awards nominee. Storybook stuff, to be sure.
With all of that said, LB is one of the few positions of strength for the Redblacks, with the likes of Travis Brown, James Green (Canadian), David Hinds, Antoine Pruneau (Canadian) and late season addition Damaso Munoz already in the fold, and the expected return of Anton “The McKenzie Report” McKenzie, after missing 2014 due to injury.
We really didn’t see anything from 25-year-old Buckner, who dressed for two games late in the year, but didn’t get on the scoresheet. A throw-in at this point, though his Arizona Cardinals coach and QB spoke highly of him.
All things considered, this was a deal the Redblacks had to make. There are only so many opportunities a team gets to acquire elite talent. And while there is some risk in the trade, the potential payoff is too good to pass up.
A great start to the build of OC Jason Maas’ new offense. Let’s see if Desjardins has anything else up his sleeve prior to the opening of free agency on February 10th!
NEWS & NOTES
• Interesting note from this Jan 7 LeDroit piece concerning Ottawa’s pending free agents. It appears offers were made to & rejected by Alex Krausnick & Wallace Miles. Krausnick is apparently looking to move back to the west (drafted by SSK, played for EDM in 2013), while Miles may still have NFL aspirations. Neither is considered a huge loss for Ottawa, although Krausnick gave us one of our more memorable moments last season.
• The Jan 8 LeDroit piece (and Tim Baines’ Jan 17 article) also notes that RB Jonathan Williams hasn’t been offered a contract and isn’t likely to be brought back. J Woo suffered a serious knee injury late in the year that could keep him out for a significant portion of the 2015 season. Disappointing news, although perhaps not totally surprising. Pro football is a cutthroat business. Hopefully Williams comes back healthy and Ottawa looks at bringing him back into the fold at that time.
• On Jan 8, the Redblacks announced the signing of their four remaining 2014 Canadian draft picks. They include OT Aaron Wheaton (Toronto), DE Stephon Miller (Windsor), LS Kevin Malcolm (McMaster) and DE Vincent Desloges (Laval). All but Malcolm attended training camp last year, and all four will be looking to earn a roster spot.
• Also on Jan 8th, the Redblacks announced they’d released International RBs D.J. Harper and Michael Hayes. Neither got to show much in 2014 due to injury, but with a fair amount of uncertainty in the backfield, keeping either or both backs around for training camp may have made some sense. With Jonathan Williams not being offered a contract, the Redblacks RB depth chart includes Chevon Walker, Jeremiah Johnson and Roy Finch. Perhaps it was no surprise to hear Desjardins add running back to his list of target positions in free agency in this TSN 1200 interview.
• The two free agents whose names have been consistently linked to the Redblacks this offseason are International SB S.J. Green (Montreal) and Canadian OL Tyler Holmes (Toronto). Green makes sense, given Ottawa’s focus on improving the receiving corps and Desjardins’ history with the Alouettes. Holmes is not only an Ottawa boy, but the son of former Rough Rider RB Richard Holmes. Works for me!
• The Redblacks Twitter account has eclipsed 30,000 followers. Pretty good for their first season. For those wondering, here are the followers for each team’s Twitter account:
Saskatchewan – 105,500
BC – 68,300
Winnipeg – 67,300
Montreal – 64,300
Toronto – 60,400
Calgary – 57,100
Hamilton – 51,400
Edmonton – 51,200
Ottawa – 30,600
Comin’ for ya, Edmonton!
• OSEG is pushing hard to host the 2017 Grey Cup at TD Place. Makes perfect sense, as it would be in conjunction with Canada’s 150th celebrations that will be going on all year long in the capital. How amazing would it be to have both the Grey Cup and an outdoor hockey game in Ottawa that fall/winter?
Thanks for reading!