Desjardins’ (mostly) quiet, yet effective week

After making an immediate splash by snagging Trevor Harris and securing the heir to Henry Burris on Day One, Ottawa Redblacks GM Marcel Desjardins flew under the radar, eschewing big name free agents while still boosting his team’s Canadian depth.

A trio of transactions resulted in two new players and the return of one who briefly tested free agency waters, before re-signing with the team that took him in the expansion draft.

The additions of FB Brendan Gillanders, DL Arnaud Gascon-Nadon and DL Andrew Marshall might not generate the same level of hype as Trevor Harris’ arrival brought, but the three young Canadians will prove to be just as important to the Redblacks’ success in 2016. 


Gillanders, an Ottawa native and Gee-Gee alum, comes to the Nation’s Capital after spending the last two seasons with the Toronto Argonauts. Though his career numbers don’t scream production (1 rushing attempt for 11 yards and 7 receptions for 104 yards), Gillanders is capable of playing multiple positions (RB/FB/TE) and being a key special teams contributor. In fact, last season he was the Argos’ special teams captain. On offence, look for him to play the same role current free agent Jordan Verdone held last season, backing up Patrick Lavoie but getting touches on screens and via the odd carry.

Gascon-Nadon (a two time Vanier Cup winner), joins the Redblacks from the Ticats. The 6-foot-3, 250 pound, 27 year old is already a fan favourite, despite the fact that he’s never suited up for Ottawa. That’s because many in R-Nation fondly remember Gascon-Nadon as the guy who graciously dropped an errant Burris pass one play before Greg Ellingson enshrined himself in Ottawa’s CFL history. A valuable special teamer, Gascon-Nadon has the opportunity to see significant playing time on defence as the Redblacks try to make up for the loss of Keith Shologan and Justin Capicciotti, both of whom won’t be back with the team next season.

Marshall’s return to the Redblacks is significant in many of the same ways that Gascon-Nadon’s is. First off, he’s got the right passport. Second, he’s been in Defensive Coordinator Mark Nelson’s system for two full seasons. Third, in the limited reps he’s gotten, Marshall’s produced, racking up two sacks and forcing a fumble. Fourth, he can also contribute on special teams.

To quote Desjardins:

We’re always looking to add quality Canadian players to the roster because you can never have enough of those guys

And that’s why though certain signings might not seem sexy at the time, fans always need to keep the bigger picture in mind. No team has ever won a Grey Cup without good depth and special teams, which is exactly what Desjardins has been quietly building.

Santino Filoso is originally from Ottawa and has written about the Redblacks since 2013. He is the only CFL writer currently living in Brazil (as far as we know).