Redblacks GM Marcel Desjardins ‘not panicked’ about contract restructure discussions with QB Nick Arbuckle

Photo Scott Grant /
Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

Ottawa Redblacks general manager Marcel Desjardins took a break from tweaking his roster to appear on TSN 1200’s In the Box radio show.

Desjardins gave a wide-ranging interview to Steve Lloyd and A.J. Jakubec, which contained lots of interesting bits for R-Nation.

If you feel like you’ve been seeing a lot of news about Redblacks’ transactions recently, you’d be right — Desjardins has been busy. Since mid-November he’s focused on extending or restructuring the contracts of several impact players.

Canadian starters Nolan MacMillan, Cleyon Laing, Antoine Pruneau and Lewis Ward have all signed new deals, as have key Americans Jalen Saunders, Devonte Dedmon, Avery Ellis, Jerod Fernandez and Sherrod Baltimore.

“We’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to best allocate our limited resources. It’s tricky because we can’t control everything and if someone doesn’t even want to get into a discussions, there’s not much I can do at that point,” Desjardins said.

“Some of our guys told us that they’ll wait for the free agency window to open to see what else is out there, but we might just decide to move on from them and reallocate that money to someone else.”

3DownNation insider Justin Dunk reported that the Redblacks and the 27-year old quarterback seem to be at an impasse. Due to the financial ramifications of COVID-19, Ottawa will not honour Arbuckle’s $430,000 contract, which can elevate up to $490,000 if certain incentives are hit.

“We haven’t accomplished anything yet, so it’s not progressing to the extent that we would want, but we also have time to accomplish what we need to accomplish. I’m not panicked about it, I’m not worried about it. We’ll see how this plays out,” Desjardins said.

“The thing is, it has to kind of play out before the end of this month because Nick has a payment due on February 1, and we need to adjust that payment to him as part of a new contract if we get to that point.”

That February 1 payment serves as a hard deadline because, if a new contract isn’t negotiated before then, it’s likely the Redblacks will cut Arbuckle instead of paying him the $150,000 roster bonus he’s scheduled to be owed.

That’s not an ideal scenario when you consider that Ottawa swapped first-round picks and gave up a third rounder for his rights early in 2020 — and already paid him a signing bonus of $210,000 in 2020.

Like Arbuckle, star receiver Brad Sinopoli is signed through the 2021 season. Unless a restructuring takes place, there’s no guarantee he returns for a seventh season in the nation’s capital.

“I’ve made an offer and spoken to the agent and we’re just kind of slow playing it. We’re waiting to see what plays out in terms of our roster, to see if there’s some wiggle room on either end,” Desjardins said.

“Obviously he’s a player we want to have back, but right now, we’re in a holding pattern. His agent and I agreed to put it to bed for a week and revisit it soon to see where we’re at.”

The Redblacks have a number of Canadians in their receiving corps, but none are on Sinopoli’s level. R-Nation will be holding their breath until the return of No. 88 is confirmed.

Desjardins admitted that it hasn’t been easy to make agents and players understand that reductions in pay aren’t a slight or to be taken personally, but instead a function of the dynamic of the league.

“The fact is, I’ve been asked to reduce payroll on players, but it’s hard not to take it personally when you’re asked to take a pay cut,” Desjardins said.

When asked about global players, Desjardins mentioned that both of Ottawa’s 2019 globals — receiver Guillermo Villalobos and kicker Jose Maltos — will be back for the 2021 campaign, assuming they are able to travel.

Given how commissioner Randy Ambrosie has prioritized his CFL 2.0 initiative, if there is a season in 2021, it’s hard to believe global players wouldn’t be involved.

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).