After putting the exclamation point on a busy few months of retaining pending free agents with the re-signings of receiver Diontae Spencer and offensive lineman Nolan MacMillan, the Ottawa Redblacks should have an offence capable of lighting up the scoreboard in 2018.
With free agency just around the corner, general manager Marcel Desjardins must now focus his efforts on acquiring players to keep opposing teams from putting points on it.
In the past, Desjardins has shown he is not afraid to dip his toe into the free agency pool. At times, his moves have been extremely successful, as when he overhauled his receiving corps and shored up his offensive line in 2015. On the other hand, aside from landing Spencer, most of last year’s off-season signees were duds.
With all that said, here’s a look at seven defensive free agents the Redblacks should kick the tires on. This isn’t to say they’ll sign all of these players, just that they should do their due diligence as each could vastly improve a unit that is sorely in need of a boost.
DT Ted Laurent*
After trading away Jake Ceresna and with Zack Evans set to hit the market, Ottawa’s defensive tackle depth is thin to none. That’s where the 30-year-old, ratio-breaking Laurent enters the picture. The addition of a 6-foot-1, 299-pound behemoth capable of single-handedly collapsing the pocket would instantly upgrade Noel Thorpe’s unit.
DT/DE Ese Mrabure*
At only 25, Mrabure is not on the casual fan’s radar (but he should be). After playing multiple positions over the course of 16 games with Saskatchewan in 2017, Mrabure looks poised for a breakout campaign in 2018. His size (6-foot-3, 275-pounds), ability and potential are all positives and in coach speak, his arrow is pointing up.
DE Jamaal Westerman*
Inking Westerman would allow Desjardins to check off multiple boxes in one fell swoop. Ratio breaking Canadian? Check. Elite passer rusher? Check. Even if Westerman is coming off an injury and will be 33 when the season kicks off, he is still worth signing. His production speaks for itself; in 47 career games in the CFL, he has 32 sacks. Before getting hurt last season, he had 7 sacks and 21 tackles in 11 games.
DB Mitchell White
After spurning White when he came back to the CFL last September (at the time, Desjardins claimed to be content with the DBs already on his roster), this is a chance for Ottawa’s GM to right a wrong. Clearly, the Redblacks’ secondary was not up to snuff in 2017 but adding White would do much to remedy those issues.
White is among the best cover men in the league, capable of blanketing an opposing team’s top receiver. His ability to play multiple positions and familiarity with new defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe is also a bonus.
Interesting fact; since winning the Grey Cup at TD Place with the Argos last November, White has been living and training in Ottawa. Make of that what you will.
DB T.J. Heath
For a team that only managed 11 interceptions in 2017, the addition of a ballhawk like Heath would be massive. Like White, Heath is a premiere shutdown defensive back and would instantly upgrade the entire secondary. Over the past two seasons, Heath has 12 interceptions, 115 tackles, a sack and a touchdown.
DB/LB Chandler Fenner
Despite BC’s overall team struggles, Fenner enjoyed a breakout season in 2017. Splitting time between the secondary and SAM linebacker position, Fenner made 76 tackles, 27 special teams tackles (second best in the CFL), an interception, seven knockdowns and had 10 QB pressures. That Fenner is capable of playing multiple positions on defence AND able contribute on special teams makes him that much more valuable. Signing Fenner would go a long way to filling the void left by Jerrell Gavins’ departure.
DB Ronnie Yell
After starting 18 games in 2017, the 26-year-old Yell set career highs in tackles (64) and interceptions (3). Given the youth in Ottawa’s secondary, Yell’s experience would be an asset.
*Denotes a National