Redblacks’ GM Marcel Desjardins felt Nick Arbuckle was Ottawa’s best quarterback option

Ottawa Redblacks general manager Marcel Desjardins ranked Nick Arbuckle at the top of his quarterback want list.

“When you watch him on the field he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He’s going to keep his team on the field, which is what you want in a quarterback. He obviously understands our game, he’s only going to get better the more he plays. Those were all factors relating to our decision to really focus on Nick and make him our best option,” Desjardins said on TSN radio 1200 in Ottawa.

The Redblacks traded for the exclusive negotiating rights to Arbuckle. He was scheduled to hit the open market on February 11. Desjardins paid the up-and-coming signal caller a $210,000 signing bonus with $420,000 and $430,000 in hard money through the duration of the two-year deal which could total $470,000 in year one and $495,000 in year two.

“He’s a guy that has shown in his previous exposure that he is a guy that can win football games. He’s a guy that can lead a team, he’s a guy who fits in to what we want in terms of leader, in terms of the character, in terms of who he is as a person. And when you put all those things into one individual it makes the decision pretty easy,” Desjardins said.

Arbuckle visited Ottawa during the second last weekend in January. The Redblacks put on a recruiting pitch to get his signature on the dotted line prior to their exclusive negotiating time expiring in February. Now that the Redblacks have signed Arbuckle to a new contract, Calgary will receive the first overall pick in the 2020 CFL draft.

“With the swap of first-round picks, we have drafted in the lower tier of the first round for the most part and have been able to come out with some very good football players. So we certainly feel that’ll be the case again,” Desjardins said.

While Bo Levi Mitchell was out of the lineup due to a pectoral injury, Arbuckle posted a 4-3 record as the starting QB for the Calgary Stampeders last season. He completed 73 percent of his passes for 2,103 yards with 11 touchdowns against five interceptions and ran 27 times for 76 yards and four majors. Desjardins believes Arbuckle can continue to grow in Ottawa’s offence.

“With Paul LaPolice being here in an offence that he is going to be running and he’s shown what he can do with an offence in Winnipeg the last numbers of years, that Nick will fit into that dynamic very well,” Desjardins said.

“He’s not going to make mistakes, he understands what he needs to do and he will ensure that we don’t turn the ball over, that we have success on first down, all those little things that allow you to keep putting points on the board.”

Ottawa needs to surround Arbuckle with capable playmakers. Brad Sinopoli is locked in as a starting Canadian receiver for the Redblacks as is American R.J. Harris, but Dominique Rhymes and Caleb Holley are free agents. The receiver spot could be supplemented when the market opens.

“The dollars are going to dictate most of what happens for us. We’re going to be smart, selective, yet aggressive in what we do in free agency,” Desjardins said.

“Players will want to come here because of what we have off the field, meaning the facilities, the city — it’s a great place to live. A lot of guys will want to be coming here to have the opportunity to prove that they belong on a team that’s going to have success.”

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