Redblacks plug (most) holes

If there’s one thing Marcel Desjardins can’t be accused of, it’s resting on his laurels in free agency. Over the years, Ottawa’s general manager has, with varying degrees of success, always been active in terms of procuring players he’s believed were capable of improving his team.

This year has been no different, with Desjardins adding nine players (eight new) with CFL experience to his team since the start of free agency.

The additions of Loucheiz Purifoy, A.C. Leonard, Julian Feoli-Gudino, Rico Murray, Kyries Hebert and Daryl Waud all address needs. We’ll get to the re-signing of Tanner Doll, Cameron Walker and Andrew Lue in a minute.

In Purifoy and Murray, the Redblacks gain a pair of experienced defenders capable of playing multiple positions. Both possess excellent speed, solid cover skills and the ability to quickly diagnose plays. The fact that duo can play as defensive backs and also at the SAM linebacker position will allow Noel Thorpe’s defence to challenge opposing offences with various looks.

Purifoy, 25, arrives in Ottawa after two productive years on the West Coast that saw him rack up 92 tackles, five sacks, four interceptions, a defensive touchdown and four forced fumbles in 36 games with BC.

The 30-year-old Murray had 60 tackles, a sack, a touchdown and a forced fumble in 20 starts in 2017 as a part of the Argos’ Grey Cup-winning defence.

The playmaking ability of the hybrid DB/LBs should replace (if not surpass) the impact plays made by the now departed Jerrell Gavins.

As for Leonard, while some may argue that his reported $145,000 is an overpayment, the reality is the Redblacks haven’t had a legitimate rush end in the franchise’s existence. The 6-foot-2, 250-pound defensive end should provide Ottawa’s defensive line with balance as he lines up opposite Jonathan Newsome and Avery Ellis.

Every season Desjardins seemingly adds a defensive end to the roster that is hyped as being the game-changing disruptive force the team has been missing. So while Leonard’s signing may be met with skepticism by some in R-Nation, given his athleticism and skill set, he should flourish in the nation’s capital.

Although Purifoy, Murray and Leonard each address a need on the defence, there are still holes to fill. After trading Jake Ceresna for seemingly next to nothing and watching Zack Evans head back to Saskatchewan, the Redblacks are without both of last season’s starting defensive tackles.

On top of that, even with the three aforementioned defensive additions, Ottawa lacked a proven middle linebacker to quarterback Noel Thorpe’s new defence.

Enter linebacker Kyries Hebert. Not only is his return to the capital an interesting “homecoming” story (he was a member of the Renegades his rookie season), he also fills a need. Fresh off an all-star campaign in 2017 (he had 110 tackles, two sacks, an interception and three forced fumbles in 18 starts), Hebert’s reunion with Thorpe will prove to be a massive asset when it comes to implementing his new defensive scheme. Even if Hebert’s 2017 numbers were a bit inflated (Montreal’s defence was on the field for a ton of snaps), he clearly still has gas in the tank. The fact that he can play both the MLB and WLB positions is another boon.

Following Hebert’s signing, the main thing still missing from Ottawa’s defence was a big-bodied defensive tackle. The 24-year-old Waud is a partial solution to that problem. Given his athleticism, it’s a low risk, high reward type of signing. But it’s impossible to ignore the fact that Waud has only suited up for 25 games over three seasons in the CFL. Injuries have plagued his entire career and he only played a single game in 2017. Waud provides Ottawa with another Canadian defensive lineman and if Desjardins can ever convince Mehdi Abdesmad to come North, the Redblacks will have replenished their Canadian defensive line depth.

Moving to the other side of the ball, Julian Feoli-Gudino’s addition to the receiving corps serves a dual purpose. With Zack Evans out of Ottawa’s equation, the Redblacks are suddenly down a Canadian starter. Feoli-Gudino could provide Ottawa with another starting Canadian receiver and make the Redblacks’ ratio look something like this; four offensive linemen, two receivers and Antoine Pruneau on defence.

Even if the Redblacks don’t make Feoli-Gudino a full-time starter, he provides depth behind Brad Sinopoli with fellow nationalreceiverss Austin Reuland and Austen Hartley.

The Laval product is coming off a career year (45 catches for 462 yards and three touchdowns) and should fit right in with Ottawa’s “French Mafia”.

As for the re-signing of LB/LS Tanner Doll, I’ll admit to being a bit puzzled by the move. On one hand, having depth at such a crucial special teams position doesn’t hurt, but on the other, fourth round 2017 draft pick Louis-Philippe Bourassa handled the majority of the long snapping duties last season and looked great doing so.

Last but not least, there is Cameron Walker and Andrew Lue. Barring emergency the 25-year-olds figure to feature exclusively on special teams.

Overall, the Redblacks have used the opening days of free agency to add experience and versatility to their defence and depth to their offence and special teams. It’s a solid start, but there’s still work to be done.

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 (196 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 Redblacks plug (most) holes

  1. Bill deHoog // February 19, 2018 at 11:32 am //

    fully agree. I think Marcel was smart with the cap money he has and likely still has room. Be nice to get another LB and DT. Could Gavins come back as a DB for extra depth and versatility. With Tate gone, I think we are thin behind Trevor. Future is bright for both Collins and Aarndt…not sure about Lindley. There is also FA from Hamilton that is not signed (Everret). All in all a good start

    • Rather Be In Hell // February 19, 2018 at 11:38 am //

      Redblacks signed former Bombers QB Dominique Davis the same day they cut Tate.

      • Yes and saved money and got a younger QB. Lindley who was the 3rd stringer was thrown in to start a couple of games and didn’t look bad.
        You never want to be in a position to lose your 1st stringer and your 2nd stringer to injury.
        Right now they have 5 QBs on the books and I’m sure more will come and go during pre-season.

        • Kirk Culkin // February 20, 2018 at 8:35 am //

          Lindley was and is a horrible choice as a third string QB. He was awful in the games he had to play in. He looked scared and couldn’t throw under any pressure. He also was not even that effective getting us a yard on third down as he would run too high and fumbled or had the ball stripped a number of times. Get rid of him!

  2. “the reality is the Redblacks haven’t had a legitimate rush end in the franchise’s existence”

    Mr Filoso, there’s a “Shawn Lemon” for you on Line 2.

    • Rather Be In Hell // February 19, 2018 at 12:33 pm //

      Funny but a half season hardly qualifies as having a legit pass rusher. He was more of an Eskimo than he was a Redblack.

    • And there was Justin Capicciotti

      According to Wikipedia…

      “He first started in week five and started every other game that season, finishing with 50 tackles and 11 sacks. The following season, he earned his first east all-star award after registering 47 tackles, 12 sacks, and a forced fumble. He dressed in 17 games and started in 16, while sitting out week 3 dressing as a backup in week 4.[4] He also played and started in the 103rd Grey Cup game.”

      But let’s not let the facts get in the way of a Desjardins suck up…

      • Capicotti was let go by Ottawa because he was a shadow of his old self.
        Releasing him was the right thing to do at the time.
        Releasing a player is the coaches decision NOT Desjardins to make.

        Glad to see Ottawa making moves and bringing in new players, you have to make changes if you are going to improve and stay ahead of the other teams.
        Unlike some teams that didn’t make the playoffs and then just re-signed the same players.

        • Really??

          Because he’s doing very well in Hamilton.

          Or..maybe now he has better coaching….

          • He didn’t do well in Saskatchewan either. And iirc he didn’t do well in the first half of last year, but he did seem to do a lot better in June Jones’ system.

  3. Leonard would have looked nice in Green & Gold

  4. They also had Aston Whiteside, who was a very excellent pass rusher during the 2015 CFL season until a devastating season ending torn ACL injury pretty much slowed him down, and was not the same again. With Leonard lining alongside Newsome, and Ellis on the D-Line, our pass rush should be much improved from last season.

  5. A bit surprised no word on a proven kicker being signed yet. Is Maher returning still a possibility?

  6. Bill deHoog // February 20, 2018 at 7:12 am //

    I was a bit surprised about the kicker also. Montreal signed the guy I thought we might go after. I think Maher is still looking for a NFL job, might still be back

  7. “He didn’t do well in Saskatchewan either. And iirc he didn’t do well in the first half of last year, but he did seem to do a lot better in June Jones’ system.”

    Nobody did on this team…that’s why they were 0-8…He was re-signed..says something about what they think of his work….

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