Eleven pending free agents the Redblacks should re-sign

With last season’s playoff loss firmly in the review mirror, it’s time for Ottawa Redblacks GM Marcel Desjardins to begin looking forward to the 2018 campaign.

Given that 2017 was such a disappointment, odds are turnover will be high. R-Nation can expect to see plenty of new faces in the nation’s capital next year.

In fact, changes have already begun, albeit at the coaching level.

As for the roster itself, the Redblacks originally had 26 pending free agents (with 12 Nationals in that group), putting them in the middle of the pack.

Of those 26, four have already been re-signed, including quarterback Trevor Harris as well as Canadians Brad Sinopoli, Jean-Phillipe Bolduc and Brendan Gillanders all of whom signetwo-yearar extensions.

When it comes to re-signing players, all model CFL franchises do two things well; they lock up their Nationals and hang onto their marquee impact players.

With that in mind, here’s a look at eleven players Desjardins should concentrate on extending before they hit the market on Feb. 13th.

William Powell

Powell’s résumé basically speaks for itself. When healthy, he’s in the conversation of best running back in the league. In 2017, coming off a torn Achilles tendon, Powell rushed for 1026 yards despite only playing in 12 games. He also had 242 receiving yards on 32 catches, displaying his gamebreaking ability as a dual threat coming out of the backfield. Things that might make Desjardins hesitant about extending the shifty back are his injury history and the fact that he will be 30 when the season kicks off.

Juron Criner

After having a coming out party with some phenomenal catches during Ottawa’s 2016 championship run, Criner spent much of 2017 on the six-game injured list. That said, he did get healthy near the end of the year and reminded R-Nation just how useful he can be, averaging 15.1 yards per catch over the team’s final three games. Criner needs to work on his route running but has two things you can’t teach; a big frame and soft hands.

Diontae Spencer

Some CFL team is going to pay Spencer a lot of money. That was guaranteed when he set a CFL record with 496 all purpose yards in the Redblacks’ regular season finale. In addition to blossoming into a reliable deep threat in the passing attack, Spencer developed into one of the league’s premier returners, scoring two touchdowns while averaging 13.3 yards per punt return, 24.3 per kickoff return and 52 per missed field goal return. The 25 year old has garnered plenty of NFL interest, so Desjardins likely has his work cut out for him.

Jake Harty

While Harty lacks the star power of some of the other names in Ottawa’s deep receiving corps, he is still an important piece. He provides Canadian depth behind Sinopoli and contributes on special teams. In spot duty, Harty made 27 catches for 226 yards and a touchdown. He also made six special teams tackles.

Nolan MacMillan

Despite being limited to just 11 games in 2017, when healthy, the first pick in Redblacks’ franchise history proved he is still among the league’s best interior blockers. MacMillan’s experience and steady level of play are an asset that must be retained.

Matt Albright

Although he is not a regular starter, Albright is a quality depth player on the Redblacks’ offensive line. Albright played in nine games in 2017 (starting three), while overcoming a serious pre-season knee injury. If Ottawa intends to keep rolling four Canadians along the offensive line (and given that Albright has demonstrated the ability to fill in when called upon), he should be re-signed.

Zach Evans

Since arriving in the nation’s capital in 2014, Evans has been a heart and soul player for the organization. Evans is one of those rare defensive tackles capable of stuffing the run and rushing the passer, as reflected by his 23 tackles (three for a loss), five sacks and eleven QB pressures.

Jerrell Gavins

Just like Evans, Gavins is an original Redblack. The diminutive defender is a spark plug, capable of energizing the entire defence with a thunderous hit or a timely turnover. Gavins’ versatility is a valuable asset, as he is able to play both DB and LB. With new defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe in the fold, Gavins would seem to be an excellent fit in his aggressive scheme. Furthermore, it’s worth noting that in playoff games with Gavins healthy and on the field, the Redblacks are 3-0. In playoff games without him (including the 2015 Grey Cup), they are 0-2.

Taylor Reed

Fresh off a career high 94 tackles and 4 sacks, Reed has been the ferocious centre piece of Ottawa’s defence since his arrival in 2016. If re-signed, the five year veteran, could be a steady presence while helping to implement Noel Thrope’s new defensive system.

Keelan Johnson

Cover men don’t often get the credit they deserve, but it was no accident that Johnson led the CFL in special teams tackles. Johnson boasts quick speed and an ability to slip by blockers. While casual fans might not be familiar with his name, you can bet the coaching staff and his teammates appreciate his hard work.

Alex Mateas*

The reason Mateas has an asterisk beside his name is because if the Redblacks intend to play him at centre, he should absolutely be brought back. In his third pro season, Mateas finally seemed to settle into a comfortable role at centre, anchoring an offensive line that drastically improved over Ottawa’s stretch run, even earning a nomination as a divisional All-Star. But as well as Mateas played at centre, he has struggled to hold his own at the guard position. Moving Mateas to centre full time would entail bumping Jon Gott to guard. That shouldn’t be an issue, as during his time with Calgary, Gott played that position at an All-Star level.

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 (203 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.)

13 Comments on Eleven pending free agents the Redblacks should re-sign

  1. I’d love to have them all back but I think we lose Spencer and MacMillan unfortunately

  2. Bill deHoog // January 13, 2018 at 9:27 pm //

    I think it will be hard to sign everyone with the cap. Agree with the list however

  3. Ridersnhabs // January 13, 2018 at 11:24 pm //

    I would love it if the riders could sign zach Evans , bring him back home

  4. Agree that signing these 11 would be great….except the Redblacks would need a salary cap of 7 million to make it happen. So, with a cap of 5.2, not gonna happen!
    Unfortunately, while Nolan MacMillan is very solid O lineman, he is very expensive and can’t be relied on to stay healthy…..so sadly…bye, bye. Team doesn’t have the money for Criner or Spencer and Harty is likely headed home to Calgary, no matter how much the team offers him. Mateus is an absolute must and agree that he needs to shift to centre. As for Powell, it will all come down to how much he wants. Best tailback in the league but Desjardins notoriously doesn’t pay much for backs. This team struggled on defence so that needs to be the focus. Reed is critical. However, Evans is a big money guy but not sure how valuable he is other than being A national and as good as Gavin’s is, he’s another injury prone guy so question marks. As for the rest, all really nice to have but not sure the $$$$ are there for all.

    • Bill deHoog // January 14, 2018 at 8:04 am //

      Sad but true. Nolan got $190 last year. Agree need to sign Mateus and Seguin. I think Criner should not bee too expensive, but Spencer is a top market guy.
      Agree that defence needs upgrade
      Challenging moth for Marcel, no doubt

    • Edmonton kept Derrell Walker so I can’t see why Ottawa can’t keep Spencer and Criner.Spencer is too small to demand attention in the NFL for long. Rainey for example remains in Vancouver despite spectacular display of talent.

      • Bill deHoog // January 15, 2018 at 2:35 pm //

        that makes total sense. Only hope that Spencer doesn’t go way high on salary demands. Criner should be fairly reasonably priced

  5. Excellent call including Keelan Johnson. He didn’t always look very good playing DB but his special teams tackle numbers speak for themselves.

    You might want to flip this now and consider an article about who might be released. If we want Mateas at center and Evan Johnson is coming along fast at left guard might make 32-year old (and likely expensive) Gott obsolete, for instance. Drew Tate can’t stay on the field. Neither can Connor Williams (and yes, I know he’s local, but at some you still hve to produce). Tough decisions will be made that way too.

    • Bill deHoog // January 14, 2018 at 9:12 am //

      Good insight by CC. I think Gott should stay as he is very versatile and great team locker guy
      I agree some tough calls coming up

  6. Rick cowan // January 14, 2018 at 9:14 am //

    I think the Riders may try to sign Zach Evans

  7. Colour me green // January 14, 2018 at 1:02 pm //

    I hope so. Loved him here in Regina. Jones won’t pay premium though, not his methodology on team management.

  8. Scottsask // January 14, 2018 at 1:34 pm //

    I’d love to see Evans back as well. Here’s hoping.

  9. Would love to see the the Bombers open their wallet and get a game changer like Diontae Spencer. One can only hope and wish………..

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