Q&A: Redblacks’ GM Marcel Desjardins on the process of trading for and potentially signing QB Nick Arbuckle

Ottawa Redblacks general manager Marcel Desjardins quietly went about the process of trading for the rights of an up-and-coming quarterback to be the face of the franchise in the nation’s capital.

The six-foot-one, 213-pound Nick Arbuckle was sent to Ottawa in exchange for a third-round choice, but the deal included a conditional pick. If Arbuckle signs a contract extension, the Redblacks must send Calgary the first overall pick in the 2020 CFL draft and the Stampeders would ship their first-round pick — sixth overall — back to Ottawa.

Parting with the third rounder allowed Desjardins to gain one month of exclusive negotiating time with Arbuckle and his agent to try to agree on a pact. The Grey Cup winning GM answered a bevy of questions about the deal and how the Redblacks plan to earn Arbuckle’s signature.

Dunk: How did it come together?

Desjardins: I had reached out to Calgary before the holidays and just touched base with Huf and threw a few things around with him. We put it to bed over the holidays and then just picked it up quickly afterwards. The initial premise we were both on the same page and it made sense and we just moved forward with it.

Dunk: What was the genesis of the trade?

Desjardins: We looked at what we thought were the better potential options out there and we felt he was our best one. Based on — I know the sample size is small — he’s shown that he can play at a high level in this league, he certainly did it against us a couple of times. He’s still a young player, he still has room to grow and we have a pretty adept offensive coach on our staff as our head coach who can be able to develop him that much more.

Dunk: Did the decision to go get him get accelerated after Paul LaPolice was hired?

Desjardins: Put it this way, is it something we would’ve done anyway? Potentially. But certainly once Paul had a chance to watch him and felt that this was a solid option for us, then yeah it said we’re all on the same page and let’s move forward with this. He took the time to study him before the holidays and we got on the same page with respect to what we feel he might be able to bring to Ottawa.

Dunk: Considering the new negotiating window, when does the Redblacks’ exclusivity end with Arbuckle?

Desjardins: Other teams could get in the mix early assuming that all gets approved. Try to get it done by the end of the month.

Dunk: Can you bring Arbuckle to Ottawa for a visit?

Desjardins: He’s our property, so we can do what we want, he’s on our roster right now. We’ll do something later in the month once everybody is back in town. We want to make sure everybody is in town at the same time before we bring him in. So we’ll find the right window to do that and that’ll probably be later this month.

Dunk: What did the Redblacks’ staff like about Arbuckle?

Desjardins: Decision-making, not making big mistakes, very efficient in everything he does, the way he kept the team on the field. He wasn’t going to do anything stupid; it looked like he was a guy who knew what he was doing. From a processing of information standpoint, you can tell he was pretty on point with that too.

Dunk: What does trading for Arbuckle’s rights mean for Ottawa’s quarterback situation?

Desjardins: To be determined. The next step is to get Nick signed and then we’ll make decisions after that.

Dunk: How much does signing Arbuckle play into your salary cap planning for free agency?

Desjardins: It’s a big piece for us for sure, it would help a lot. It’s the first step, but it’s a big step too.

Dunk: How did you put a value of assets together for the Arbuckle trade?

Desjardins: It’s a degree of reasonableness, to be honest with you. We felt giving up a third-round pick was more than reasonable for acquiring the rights for a month. We have four draft picks from last year coming back this year, two from Manitoba, one from Sherbrooke and one from Laval. We feel those guys worst case scenario replace that third round pick. There’s different ways of filling the void of losing that third-round pick. Going from first to sixth in terms of if we sign him flip first-round picks, we’ve not picked at the top end of the draft a lot and we’ve done OK with six, seven, eight, nine. So we’re more than comfortable with drafting a little later in the first round and knowing we’re still going to get a good football player.

Dunk: What would your ideal contract length be for Arbuckle to sign?

Desjardins: Usually quarterbacks you try to do three years. We haven’t really talked — his agent is Rob Fry — I haven’t talked a ton with Rob about any of that at this point. I don’t know what they’re going to be looking at in terms of the actual term or in terms of dollars. I have a sense of the dollars, but we’ll see how that plays out. The minimum ideally is three years, but whether we get that done or not I don’t know.

Dunk: When you were discussing the trade with Calgary was there an opportunity to talk with Arbuckle of his agent prior to finalizing?

Desjardins: No. I look around the league and where are his other options going to be? There aren’t going to be a lot of them if he wants to be a starter. I feel our scenario is just as good as anybody’s, in terms of who we have as our head coach and our offensive coordinator. Who we have on our roster in terms of other players — now we do need to get better there. But also what we have to offers in terms of our facilities, our environment on the site there, in terms of what the city of Ottawa has to offer. And you look at what the other options might be and, to me, those don’t compare. There are some places you can go and be the starting quarterback and nobody in that city will know who you are.

Dunk: Are you preparing a recruiting pitch for Arbuckle?

Desjardins: You have to and we do feel we have a lot to offer. But that’ll be up to him and his agent and me with respect to the contract to see if it makes sense for everybody. Paul and the coaching staff will have to be a big part of talking to him about what Paul can do for him too as a quarterback.

Full audio of the interview available on the 3DownNation podcast.

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