Odell Willis deal doesn’t quite add up for Redblacks

That Ottawa Redblacks GM Marcel Desjardins traded American defensive lineman Jake Ceresna to Edmonton for defensive end Odell Willis was not, in and of itself, a cause for consternation in R-Nation.

Ceresna, one of the few bright spots on Ottawa’s defensive line in 2017, had an impressive rookie campaign. In 13 starts he made 18 tackles, had two sacks, eleven QB pressures (third best on the team), four knockdowns and four tackles for a loss.

While trading a promising young player away is never ideal, R-Nation probably could’ve lived with losing Ceresna if the return was Willis, a former All-Star with 86 career sacks to his credit filled a massive need for the Redblacks.

Since Ottawa’s return to the CFL in 2014, the one thing the franchise has lacked (season after season) is an edge rusher consistently able to pressure opposing QBs. As recently as yesterday morning, head coach Rick Campbell mentioned that he’d love to add an impact pass rusher.

Although some may be concerned with his age, Willis clearly still has game, as evidenced by the eight sacks and 25 pressures he had last season.

Despite Willis’ contract being much bigger than Ceresna’s (who was likely headed into the second year of a rookie minimum contract), surely the Redblacks could’ve made the numbers work to keep Willis.

Given that Desjardins has repeatedly talked about wanting to sink more money into the defensive side of the ball, this was a golden chance to literally put his money where his mouth was.

Instead, Willis’ time in the nation’s capital lasted all of 17 minutes before he was shipped out to the B.C. Lions.

The return: a 4th round pick in the 2018 draft and the rights to a negotiation list player.

In essence, the trade boils down to Ceresna being flipped for a 4th round pick and because fans in Ottawa will never know who the negotiation list player is, the whole deal is a big fat question mark.

This situation, like many others before it, highlights why a confidential negotiation list is so counterproductive to generating buzz among CFL fanbases. At this point in time, R-Nation is struggling to digest the fact that their GM traded an up-and-coming rookie for a desperately needed rush end for a mid-round draft pick and a mystery.

If fans in Ottawa knew who the neg list player was, and knew if he had a realistic shot at winding up in a Redblacks uniform, the trade might not seem so one-sided.

As things currently stand, it’s fair to say that while Edmonton and B.C. both improved, Ottawa did not. After all, as Montreal defensive end John Bowman noted, it’s not as if there are a plethora game-changing pass rushers available for hire.

Trading a promising young player from a position that already lacked depth (defensive tackle) to address a need (defensive end), is one thing.  But turning around and leaving your team thin at two positions (defensive tackle AND defensive end) in order to acquire a draft pick and an unknown doesn’t quite add up.

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
Santino Filoso
About Santino Filoso (219 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.)

15 Comments on Odell Willis deal doesn’t quite add up for Redblacks

  1. Bang on Santino. Can’t remember a time I’ve felt so discouraged and disheartened about this team. To your point, Jake Ceresna had a very good rookie year and he is going to be a beast if he doesn’t go to the NFL in the next year. As you point out, we essentially give away a very promising young defensive tackle for nothing.

    Forget about Willis as his best days are behind him, but how can anyone explain trading away a starting defensive tackle for nothing? Wasn’t about money because Jake is on an entry level salary. I’ve heard Desjardins quoted as saying that the team concluded that Ceresna didn’t fit with Thorpes defensive scheme to be implemented. How you’d reach that conclusion before the team even steps on the field and Ceresna has a chance to show how much he’s progressed over year one is beyond comprehension. But if you were certain he wasn’t a good fit, wouldn’t you either trade him for a warm body and possible someone who is a better fit or at least hang onto Ceresna until he plays himself out of the defence.

    The bottom line here is that Desjardins gave away a very promising young defensive tackle, getting nothing in return and having nothing on the roster to replace him at this point. Guess nothing is better then something. And for a team that desparatley needs to improve on defence, weve now weakened our d-line depth, we don’t have a middle linebacker under contract, our best corner is likely gone to the NFL and who knows if the team will bring back Zack Evans or Jerrell Gavin’s. Oh and by the way…..still no impact rush end!

    RBs fans should get used to the idea that it is going to be a very long and disappointing season. Feel sorry for coach Campbell whose expected to patch together a defence which will likely once again this year be overloaded with rookies.

    • You keep saying “for nothing”. You are wrong and you have to know it.

      You don’t know what the 4th round pick will turn into and you don’t know who the negotiation list player is. You also don’t know if there’s a guy on the roster right now that they’re high on. A year ago, Ceresna himself was a nobody. He was signed just prior to training camp.

      I’m not crazy about losing him either but this world-is-coming-to-an-end stuff is ridiculous.

    • Don’t worry handler don’t even need a winning record to win the east and one win at home gets you to the show

    • But you don’t know who the neg players is. Desjardins said he wants an impact player who can rush.
      Desjardins and the Lions know who the Neg player is, he’s not going to give up Ceresna and Willis for nothing.
      He obviously is talking about a known impact player.

  2. Noel Thorpe is an egotistical maniac as was once quoted by a former player …good luck with that lunatic!

  3. rogieshan // February 3, 2018 at 4:29 pm //

    I would reserve any criticism until we see what Desjardins does in the free agency front. (Bazzie, Westerman & Laurent are all on the radar.) And let’s not over-rate Ceresna’s work – he was not a difference maker on the DL, plus he was behind Newsome and Ellis on the depth chart.

    • He was solid but hardly irreplaceable. The defence was far from impressive so clearly some of these guys are going to have to go.

      Many Ottawa fans do that. They get a attached to a player then wonder how we’re ever going to live without him. I saw one guy claim that Ceresna bats down a pass almost every game. Ceresna played in 14. Derek Taylor has his knockdown total at 4. But somehow that fan saw about three times as many.

  4. Enrico Della penta // February 3, 2018 at 4:33 pm //

    Tsk, tsk Marcel hope it works. I think not.

  5. In reference to this part:

    “Given that Desjardins has repeatedly talked about wanting to sink more money into the defensive side of the ball, this was a golden chance to literally put his money where his mouth was.”

    First of all, I don’t think Desjardins was ever going to literally put money in his mouth. 😉

    I don’t think it’s accurate. People need to let Odell Willis to Ottawa out of the equation. This was a 3-way trade for a reason. He was meant to go to BC all along. Edmonton was not trading him to us. Ever. But the first part has to be completed before the second part can take place.

    Santino, you must receive the OSEG press releases? Did you get one about acquiring Odell Willis? I don’t believe there was one. There’s a reason for that. It was never a “final” move.

    Aside from the QB position when has Desjardins EVER signed or traded for a player in his 30s? Odell to Ottawa would have been totally against the grain for him.

    Ottawa has no 5th and 6th round draft picks in 2018. Edmonton has no 2nd or 3rd rounder so they’re unlikely to want to part with their 4th, too, and certainly not their first.

    Edmonton might not have been willing to let a player of Willis’ caliber go without some immediate help at the position. BC may not have had a player they liked, but with Sunderland having been in Ottawa, he would have known Ceresna.

    Ottawa provides the player at no further draft pick loss to Edmonton, Ottawa plugs a hole in the draft, BC hopefully gets a season or two out of Willis, Edmonton shaves about $90,000 off their cap.

    • yes, I agree.
      Not a great loss here and let’s wait to see who Ottawa picks up in FA and who the Neg player is.
      It is way to early to start complaining. If Ottawa comes away fro the FA with nothing then we can start complaining.
      So far Desjardins has been right on the money with his strategy.

  6. bill dehoog // February 4, 2018 at 2:30 pm //

    I think Jake was a good player for us, but I think we have to be patient with free agency coming up. Believe there is a plan in place with Noel heading up the defence. Expect the defence to be much stronger. Remember we need to improve as a team which means some guys will need to go. Marcel has done a very good job up till now, so let us see how it plays out. Quite a few difference makers available on the 13th…let’s go and get some 🙂

    • Absolutely. I see people on social media complaining about holes on the roster. It’s February 4th, FFS. Of course there are holes.

      Desjardins has not been error free and in interviews he’s recognized that he didn’t do a good enough job last. Truth be told, aside from Spencer, his free agency period was dismal (can’t do anything about the Shaw injury, mind you). But the draft looks like it was oustanding. Let’s give the man the benefit of the doubt just a bit.

  7. Whoever they got from that neg list. Marcel really, really wanted. certainly wasn’t a #32 pick.

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