Despite losses, Redblacks GM Marcel Desjardins wastes no time plugging holes

On the first day of free agency, R-Nation watched Ernest Jackson and Abdul Kanneh (each responsible for one of the two most iconic plays in the Redblacks’ Grey Cup win), hit the free agent market. They were joined by 15 other players (including Chris Milo), several of whom have already found new homes.

But before fans in the nation’s capital even had a chance to lament their losses, GM Marcel Desjardins was already bringing in replacements. How did Desjardins respond to losing two 1,000 yard receivers? By going out and inking two former Argos who are capable of producing 1000 yard seasons of their own.

While Kenny Shaw might not boast the same ability to go over middle as Ernest Jackson, and while Dionate Spencer might not have Chris Williams’ game breaking speed, both have good hands, are excellent route runners and crisp coming out of cuts. Their familiarity with Trevor Harris (whom they played with in 2015), and offensive co-ordinator Jamie Elizondo (who was their receiving coach in Toronto), should not be overlooked. It won’t take either long to build chemistry and develop a strong rapport with Harris.

It was a bit surprising to hear Desjardins mention in an interview with TSN1200 that after signing Greg Ellingson, he didn’t try to re-sign Ernest Jackson, but it’s very likely that Shaw and Spencer’s combined salaries are close to what Jackson would have commanded.

Even with two of Ottawa’s four 1000 yard receivers gone, a receiving corps that boasts Shaw, Spencer, Ellingson, Brad Sinopoli and Juron Criner is among the best in the league. In addition to stabilizing the receiver group, Shaw and Spencer go a long way towards improving the Redblacks’ special teams, as both are capable of returning kicks.

Given the fact that LB Taylor Reed was extended earlier this off-season and that LB Damaso Munoz was so productive over the last three seasons (144 tackles, 8 sacks, 2 interceptions and 4 forced fumbles), it was a bit unexpected to see the Redblacks sign LB Khalil Bass. The addition of Bass led to Munoz being released but R-Nation shouldn’t worry about a decline in production from the weak side linebacker position, as Bass has racked up 181 tackles, 9 sacks, 3 interceptions and 5 forced fumbles over the last two years. It’s also worth mentioning that Bass is four years younger than Munoz, which might have factored into Desjardins’ thinking.

Many in R-Nation were extremely concerned about the holes  in the team’s secondary, but Desjardins moved to solidify the group by re-signing Jerrell Gavins on Feb. 13th and inking AJ Jefferson to a one year deal shortly after free agency started. Jefferson excels in man coverage and given his ball skills, projects to be a playmaker in Mark Nelson’s defence.

On top of adding four starters, Desjardins shored up Ottawa’s National depth and special teams units, signing DB Adam Berger (who provides depth behind Antoine Pruneau), LB Ron Omara (an Aylmer native and experienced special teamer) and RB Pascal Lochard (a one-time Vanier Cup MVP who presumably fills the departed Kienan LaFrance’s role).

All in all, R-Nation can breathe a deep sigh of relief. Though some key contributors to Ottawa’s back-to-back Grey Cup appearances are gone, fans should be thrilled with the moves their GM made during the opening days of free agency . Desjardins pulled no punches and has his team well-armed (at least on paper) to defend their title on home turf.

Santino Filoso

Santino Filoso

Born and raised in the 613, Santino has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know.)
Santino Filoso
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Santino Filoso
About Santino Filoso (175 Articles)
Born and raised in the 613, Santino has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know.)

7 Comments on Despite losses, Redblacks GM Marcel Desjardins wastes no time plugging holes

  1. Still a good team.Lots of turnover but still a strong contender

  2. Desjardins is a model that Austin can learn from.

  3. george fogarty // February 17, 2017 at 6:27 pm //

    Gonna be another great season in the CFL. Seems like Montreal is getting stronger, Toronto unfortunately seems to be moving backwards which is not good for the fan base. Tabbies will be there so the east is looking good and the west still strong as ever. However, the REDBLACKS will still be strong and right at the top hopefully.

  4. According to RDS, Ernest Jackson is making $160K for 2017 & $180K for 2018. If Greg Ellingson is signed for 2yrs @ $200K per as reported, did Desjardins overpay or does he believe Ellingson is the better receiver?

    • For what it’s worth, I think Jackson screwed himself. This is just a guess, but I believe he saw the contract that Bowman got and decided he was worth something like that. Then he found out the hard way that very few teams agree and/or are capable of meeting it.

      He was said to be making in the 140 to 150 range in Ottawa. I can’t imagine he was asked to take a pay cut so I find it hard to believe that he’s getting more from Montreal than Ottawa’s offer (if Ottawa offered anything at all).

      But he wanted to test the market so at least some of the money earmarked for him was directed to Ellingson instead. Desjardins probably knew it would be hard to keep both, but damned if he would lose them both.

      Similar to what happened with Lemon last year. “Good luck, but no promises if things don’t work out”.

  5. Ottawa will be alright at receiver. Ellingson was the most talented in their core and Sinopoli is the best national receiver in the league. Williams will likely miss a good portion of the season anyway. Spencer provides speed and quickness and he is young. Shaw is no Jackson but he could likely be the 4th thousand yard receiver in 2017 in the RedBkacks system. And he is much younger than Jackson. I really like Bass at LB. dude is a thumper and has excellent speed. Jefferson is a ball hawk but I think they just lost too much in the secondary. They could be involved in some track meets this season.

  6. Enrico Della Penta // February 21, 2017 at 6:26 pm //

    Yessir add Drew Tate to the mix and we are set to go. Good job Marcel and crew!

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