The Ottawa Redblacks won a bidding war with the Edmonton Elks to secure the services of franchise quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, but those in the free agency meeting room could hardly believe that there was competition to begin with.
In exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from the latest episode of the team’s F1-inspired documentary series Behind the R, the Redblacks’ football operations department is captured on camera questioning the Elks salary cap situation following the green and gold’s offer to Masoli.
“It’s us and Edmonton. There’s no other teams in it, nothing like that,” general manager Shawn Burke said as he entered a conference room full of coaches and personnel executives, gesturing at a whiteboard full of free agent names.
“We talked through this and I have to talk to [senior vice-president of sports business operations Adrian Sciarra] and [OSEG CEO Mark Goudie], like how the f*** is Edmonton giving him anything with what they’ve spent already. I mean, they’re in on [Mark] Korte, they’re in on Duke [Williams], and this and that.”
“It doesn’t make sense,” assistant general manager Jeremy Snyder echoed.
“Yeah, it just doesn’t make sense,” Burke finished.
The Elks and Redblacks had previously been in a competition over the hiring of Burke as general manager, with Ottawa pulling out all the stops to hire their man before his in-person meeting in Edmonton. The Elks ended up with Chris Jones in a dual role as head coach and GM.
The former Roughrider head honcho has a well-earned reputation for colouring outside the lines of the CFL rule book, no doubt influencing the Redblacks’ skepticism that the Elks weren’t acting above board. That was a talking point that seems to have spilled over into the negotiations with Masoli, as Burke recounted to head coach Paul LaPolice.
“I don’t think the process is even close, I don’t think the decision where to go is close, but that’s for you guys to decide, not for us,” he said, recounting his sales pitch. “All we can do is present what we’re willing to do.”
In another clip, Burke appears to read a text message from an unidentified source indicating that the quarterback also had concerns about the Edmonton situation.
“Jeremiah is leaning to you guys. Told him he needed to go to you guys without a doubt. He said Edmonton’s [inaudible] not a good fit,” the GM recounts in cellphone footage. “Likes your head coach and knows you’ll get him players to play with him.”
Masoli eventually chose Ottawa, signing a two-year contract with the Redblacks ahead of the end of the legal tampering window that will pay him $432,000 plus incentives next year. Securing a franchise pivot was crucial to providing hope for the beleaguered team and helping them sign a whopping 15 additional free agents.
Beating out the Elks for the former Ticat won’t guarantee the Redblacks relevancy, but in the words of one unidentified front office member: “It doesn’t mean s***, but it’s better than the alternative.”