The Ottawa Redblacks did an evaluation for the team’s best option at the quarterback position for 2021 and potentially beyond.
General manager Marcel Desjardins was monitoring the situation with veteran pivot Matt Nichols in Toronto while weighing the decision to pay Nick Arbuckle a $150,000 roster bonus on February 1.
“Once we had confirmation that Matt Nichols had been released by Toronto, we made some phone calls and tried to find out if they would be willing to come to Ottawa. And if so, what the contract would look like, and we had those discussions relatively quickly,” Desjardins said on TSN 1200 radio in Ottawa.
“From a financial standpoint — in terms of what the contract is, from a term standpoint in terms of Nick at the time when we were negotiating — they were only willing to do one year, and Matt Nichols committed to two years. Those were all parts of the reason for doing it. There were a bunch of reasons for wanting to do this.”
It’s a two-year deal for Nichols in the nation’s capital through the 2022 season, which included a $200,000 signing bonus, according to 3DownNation insider Justin Dunk. Nichols spent four seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers where he worked alongside Paul LaPolice, who is now the head coach with the Redblacks.
“Matt Nichols’ health — that’s the big part of it because he wasn’t healthy a year ago. Speaking with him and all the insight we had in a very brief window, we felt comfortable moving forward with him and with his health,” Desjardins said.
“We don’t know when we’re going to start our season. We don’t know how long of a training camp we’re going to have, so to have a quarterback and a head coach who are already on the same page in what could be a shortened camp and season puts us further ahead than we otherwise might have been had we gone with Nick.”
In a corresponding move, the Redblacks released Arbuckle. The 27-year-old committed to the Redblacks last January and moved his family to Ottawa. His wife Zakiyyah gave birth to the couple’s first child in the nation’s capital, daughter Aaliyah.
“We’re not at all happy with the circumstances as it relates to Nick on the personal side,” Desjardins said, “I feel bad from that standpoint, but that can’t be what dictates my decision-making.”