With the offence now set, questions remain on defence

That noise you heard Wednesday afternoon was a collective sigh of relief from R-Nation that the Ottawa Redblacks managed to lock up their biggest pending free agent, receiver Diontae Spencer. Oh, and they also re-signed the first player in franchise history, offensive lineman Nolan MacMillan, who was drafted in 2013.

Spencer, widely acknowledged as the league’s top pending free agent, will be looking to build off a breakout 2017 season. In addition to the 71 catches he made (good for 922 yards and six touchdowns), he returned 70 punts for 929 yards and a touchdown (averaging 13.3 yards per return), 25 kickoffs for 605 yards (24.3 yards per return) and five missed field goals for 250 yards and a touchdown (52 yards per return).

With the ability to single-handedly take over a game, as demonstrated when he put up a CFL record 496 all-purpose yards against Hamilton in Week 18, Spencer’s re-signing shores up the receiving corps and ensures the most explosive returner to wear red and black since Jason Armstead in the Renegade era will continue to thrill R-Nation every time he returns a kick.

With Spencer back in the fold, the Redblacks receiving corps is among the deepest in the league. Greg Ellingson, Brad Sinopoli, Diontae Spencer and a healthy Kenny Shaw will wreak havoc on opposing secondaries, forcing defensive coordinators to pick their poison.

Furthermore, the fact that it will be Spencer’s second year in Jamie Elizondo’s offensive system (with the same quarterback throwing to him) should allow for him to improve upon last season’s numbers. After all, in 2017 he only crossed the 100-yard receiving mark four times. If he stays healthy, the sky is the limit.

As for MacMillan, his return gives Ottawa another experienced and battled tested offensive lineman. In spite of the fact that he has struggled to stay healthy in recent seasons (missing 18 games due to injury) when on the field, he is a steady presence capable of playing guard and tackle.

By keeping MacMillan in the fold, the Redblacks’ offensive line will again be deep. After being pressed into action in his rookie season, Evan Johnson acquitted himself well, but with MacMillan sticking around, he likely returns to the bench. As things currently stand, Ottawa’s offensive line could feature four Canadians; SirVincent Rogers at left tackle, a combination of Alex Mateas and Jon Gott at left guard/centre, MacMillan at right guard and Jason Lauzon-Séguin at right tackle.

Although re-signing both Spencer and MacMillan are extremely positive moves for the franchise, they undoubtedly did not come cheap. And for a team that was already heavily invested (salary cap wise) on the offensive side of the ball, there will be repercussions elsewhere. As with each CFL transaction, every addition equals a subtraction.

Those clamouring for the return of defensive pending free agents (and fan favourites) like Zack Evans, Taylor Reed, Jerrell Gavins, Arnaud Gascon-Nadon and Jonathan Rose need to acknowledge that now, at most, only one will return.

General manager Marcel Desjardins has been busy in the buildup to free agency. Since Ottawa’s season came to an abrupt end in November, he’s re-signed Trevor Harris, William Powell, Mossis Madu, Brendan Gillanders, Brad Sinopoli, Alex Mateas and now Diontae Spencer and Nolan MacMillan.

With so many starters set to return on the offensive side of the ball, the 2018 Redblacks should have no issue putting points on the board. But as free agency kicks off, R-Nation will be waiting for their GM to sign players to keep points off of it.

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 (225 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.)

5 Comments on With the offence now set, questions remain on defence

  1. bill dehoog // February 10, 2018 at 10:18 am //

    Agree with that. I think Taylor Reed will be the only returnee. Looking at FA list, most of the top guys are taken. Laurent ($250K) is too expensive. Some cheaper options (ie Atkinson from Hamilton) could replace Evans. Like to see a new corner (Mitchell White). Other options are Kevin Fogg,Ronnie Yell,etc. Konar is a good canadian LB. May be some good bargains if we don’t overpay. For a rush end how about Bazzie. I think Marcel will be careful. Should be a fun week

  2. Just saying // February 10, 2018 at 10:55 am //

    Your team is looking good they will be for sure competitive on offence. It crazy how many good players on defence may choose free agency. If that happens I would love to see Zack Evans in green again. Go Riders!

  3. Absolutely no doubt Marcel has done an excellent job on the offensive side of the ball. Like most, assuming this means we will be losing several key veterans on defence. Hopefully, Tank returns and if we can sign Mitch White Next week, that is probably all that is left in the budget except for possibly some tier two free agents. Hopefully, those seven rookies who started last year will be stepping up their game with a year under their belts.

    While this time of year is exciting for fans as we speculate all the changes, it is also a sad time saying goodbye to several very solid veteran players. But as Marcel has said….in spite of a Grey Cup, we’ve only won what 16 games in the last two years, so obviously, hanged have to be made. Fasten your seat belts!

  4. Need defence other a new DC hope we can learn to tackle and play aggressive D.

  5. Hopefully there’s a pass rusher on the neg list we traded for, and he signs with us.

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