Redblacks’ releases create cap space and questions

On the surface, the Ottawa Redblacks’ decision to cut ties with three international receivers makes sense.

By releasing Quincy McDuffie, Kenny Shaw and Josh Stangby, the Redblacks free up a good chunk of cap space. McDuffie’s salary was rumoured to be north of $150,000. Shaw was heading into the final year of a contract that paid him more than $100,000. And even if Stangby was making the league minimum ($55,000), that’s still over $300,000 Ottawa suddenly has off the books.

Does Ottawa boast as deep a receiving corps today as it did yesterday? Of course not. But in the big scheme of things, losing McDuffie, Shaw and Stangby shouldn’t hurt what is still, on paper, a potent offence.

McDuffie arrived in Ottawa with big expectations. Fresh off a stint in the NFL, he was expected to be a game changer in the return game and a vertical threat. Instead, he struggled with injuries, playing in only six games, and was utterly overshadowed by Diontae Spencer’s late season explosion. In the end, McDuffie’s time in Ottawa can be summed up by his stat line. Three catches for 19 yards, 11 punt returns for 81 yards and 23 kick off returns for 467 yards.

While Shaw would’ve been a nice addition to the 2018 roster, the reality is he’s returning from a torn ACL. For a player best known for his quickness and speed, there’s no guarantee he’ll return to his 2016 form when he caught 77 passes for 1004 yards and five touchdowns.

As for Stangby, although he’s shown promise, at 27 years old, it’s fair to wonder if he’s hit his ceiling. Forty one receptions for 478 yards and five touchdowns is nothing to turn your nose at but it’s also not irreplaceable.

All that said, the decision to release the trio now should raise some eyebrows in R-Nation.

After all, had these transactions happened earlier in the off-season, perhaps Ottawa would’ve been able to afford to keep players like defensive lineman Zack Evans, linebacker Taylor Reed or even receiver Juron Criner.

By waiting until now, the Redblacks find themselves with a bunch of cap space when nearly every impact free agent is off the market.

But maybe GM Marcel Desjardins is simply setting the stage for another move.

Maybe now he has enough flexibility to entice 2016 3rd round pick defensive lineman Medhi Abdesmad to abandon his NFL dreams and head north. Inking Abdesmad would fill the last real hole remaining on Ottawa’s revamped defence.

Maybe he’s freeing up space to bring back a player like Canadian defensive lineman Arnaud Gascon-Nadon or defensive back Jerrell Gavins or to swing a trade.

Or perhaps the whole thing is simply a case of Ottawa needing to balance the books and cutting three players from a position of strength. Even following today’s moves, the Redblacks still have thirteen receivers on their roster.

National receivers:

Brad Sinopoli
Julian Feoli-Gudino
Austin Reuland
Austen Hartley

International receivers:

Greg Ellingson
Diontae Spencer
Dominique Rhymes
*Noel Thomas
*R.J. Shelton
*Jhajuan Seales
*Richard Mullaney
*Lance Evans
*Romond Deloatch
*Denotes a rookie who has never caught a CFL pass

In spite of the fact that Ottawa is losing experience and depth with the release of McDuffie, Shaw and Stangby, their departures open the door to a group of intriguing rookie receivers. It also raises the possibility of the Redblacks starting two Canadian receivers, though they’d need to bolster their Canadian pass-catching depth in the upcoming draft.

In the end, R-Nation will have to wait and see how Desjardins decides to use his new cap space.

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).