Redblacks, quarterback Nick Arbuckle involved in contract staredown

The honeymoon phase is over between the Ottawa Redblacks and Nick Arbuckle.

It’s been an entire year since general manager Marcel Desjardins traded for the rights to the 27-year-old quarterback. He originally signed Arbuckle to a two-year contract through the 2021 CFL season.

That agreement included a $210,000 signing bonus, which the Redblacks paid Arbuckle immediately last January. He could have earned up to $480,000 in 2020, but the schedule was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Based on the original contract, Arbuckle is scheduled to earn $430,000 in hard money this year with playtime incentives that could take his compensation up to $490,000. There is a deadline at play as Arbuckle is due an off-season payment on February 1 of $150,000.

Teams across the country are cutting player expenditures by spending to the salary cap floor for the 2021 season. Money needs to be carefully managed with the financial ramifications of COVID-19 hitting franchises hard. Therefore, any cash given to athletes must be for contributors who will be with the squad and not playing elsewhere.

According to sources, Desjardins and Arbuckle’s camp have been in contract restructuring talks since before Christmas. Sources indicate that the signal caller proposed reducing his contract by over $100,000, which would be an over 20 percent pay cut.

For context, quarterbacks with similar pay grades for the 2021 season — Saskatchewan’s Cody Fajardo and Montreal’s Vernon Adams Jr. — took less than 10 percent reductions for the upcoming season.

It seems as though Arbuckle wants to remain with the Redblacks.

A year ago, there was an opportunity for the young pivot to join forces with his former Stampeders’ quarterbacks coach, Ryan Dinwiddie, in Toronto. He chose to commit to Ottawa after they traded a third-round pick for his rights. With Toronto just a four-hour drive from Ottawa, it’s a scenario that could play out with a different ending in 2021.

The Redblacks have invested precious draft capital and over $200,000 into Arbuckle already. He’s reciprocated by embracing the franchise and its community. Without a 2020 CFL season, Arbuckle has had the opportunity to spend an entire year learning head coach Paul LaPolice’s offence to prepare for the upcoming season.

Offering to take significantly less than his peers at the position is a sign Arbuckle is a team player and wants Ottawa to put proven pieces around him that other teams may not be able to afford with their quarterbacks having taken smaller pay reductions.

After all the Redblacks have invested in Arbuckle, the team could lose him for nothing if the hard-line stance taken by the franchise doesn’t change.

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