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 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).