Redblacks’ GM Shawn Burke evaluating in-house, neg list and free agent quarterback options

Photo courtesy: Ottawa Redblacks

New Ottawa Redblacks general manager Shawn Burke wants to solidify the quarterback position in the nation’s capital.

There isn’t a bonafide franchise QB in place and it’s clearly a focus for Burke to secure capable options to fill the role.

“It’s without a doubt that the quarterback position is the most important position in pro football. I got a great resource in coach [Paul] LaPolice with much more quarterback background than me, so he’ll be a huge part of that,” Burke said.

“It starts with evaluating in-house, you have a neg list with a certain amount of quarterbacks and then there is going to be some guys available through the league. It’s going to take an evaluation phase at the start and know what we’re looking for.”

Veteran Matt Nichols completed 65 percent of his passes but struggled to push the ball down the field with 544 yards, zero touchdowns against three interceptions and a single-season career-low 5.7 yards per attempt. The 34-year-old is due a $200,000 roster bonus on February 1 as part of his $402,000 in potential compensation next year.

Caleb Evans displayed intriguing potential in an otherwise lost 2021 season. The six-foot-two, 210-pound QB completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,279 yards with five touchdowns against nine interceptions while rushing 42 times for 345 yards and three touchdowns. The 23-year-old is under contract for the 2022 season at a base minimum salary of $65,000 with statistical, all-star and award incentives available.

Former NFLer Devlin Hodges and Taryn Christion are under contract for one more year while Dominique Davis is a pending free agent. Meanwhile there are a handful of quarterbacks on the Redblacks exclusive negotiation list, but none of them are proven at the pro level.

Assuming McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Zach Collaros re-sign with Toronto and Winnipeg respectively, which is highly likely, there are three potential free agent quarterbacks Ottawa could look to sign. Dane Evans and Jeremiah Masoli, both know Burke from time together in Hamilton, along with Jake Maier. Those players would have to make it to the open market unless Burke executes a trade.

Any move Burke makes involving a quarterback will be done in lockstep with LaPolice who, according to sources, covets Chris Streveler. He pounded the table for Nichols to be his QB1 during his first year in Ottawa, but that didn’t work out as imagined as the Redblacks posted a 3-11 record, last place in the East Division. The longtime Tiger-Cats personnel man has been tasked with infusing the roster with talent.

“Priority number one is spending as much time as possible with coach LaPolice and working together for our blueprint. We do have some pieces on the roster in place and that needs to be acknowledged,” Burke said.

“We want to have dynamic football players that are playmakers, that love the game, that play with a passion and play the right way. We have to define what we want as a Redblack DNA of a football player.”

Burke stated free agency will be a “priority” and major factor in how the Redblacks build a competitive team.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.