When Edmonton general manager and head coach Chris Jones flew to Dallas to meet with quarterback J.T. Barrett, he let the former Ohio State University star know the Elks starting job was an open competition.
Barrett, who has yet to play in an NFL regular season game, and his camp deliberated for approximately one month and decided to sign a contract with the green and gold. Edmonton inked the high profile 27-year-old from their negotiation list on January 28.
“If J.T. grades out the best and performs the best at practice, meetings and in the pre-season games, then yes, he could be the starter. If not, then he won’t be. He knows exactly what’s there,” Jones said.
“We’re not going to pigeonhole anybody into what they’re gonna do, we’re gonna let this thing play out. What I’ve told everybody all along, I’ve told them the same thing, it’s not something that I’ve hidden from them: we’re gonna let that thing be a competitive situation from day one.”
Barrett will be competing with Nick Arbuckle, Taylor Cornelius and other first-year signal callers in Elks training camp. Arbuckle spent the majority of the 2021 season with the Toronto Argonauts alongside current Elks offensive coordinator Stephen McAdoo, however, each QB will have to learn his system and prove they can be productive in it.
“We’ve got a lot of good quarterbacks, [Barrett’s] not the only one. We’ve got some other guys that are extremely talented and he’ll be able to come in and compete for that position,” Jones said.
“We’re trying to put together the best players, we’ve got a lot of guys that can play. A lot of them have the ability throwing the football, others are more athletic and can be multi-positional type players, possibly. We’re gonna bring all these guys and let ’em show what they can do. Whoever can help our football team the most is the one that’s gonna be playing.”
A three-time winner of the Big Ten Conference’s Griese–Brees Quarterback of the Year award in 2014, 2016 and 2017, Barrett excelled for the Buckeyes from 2014 to 2017. He started 44 games and was the first three-time captain in the program’s storied history.
The Wichita Falls, TX native burst onto the scene as a freshman, going 11-1 as Ohio State’s starter and earned the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year award. He finished the season with 2,834 passing yards and 34 touchdowns against 10 interceptions, while adding 171 rushes for 938 rushing yards and 11 more touchdowns on the ground. Despite losing Barrett to an ankle injury in the regular season finale, the Buckeyes went on to claim the national championship with a 42-20 win over the University of Oregon Ducks.
Over his final three seasons at Ohio State, Barrett continued to excel, finishing his career with more than 25 program records. He remains the Buckeyes’ career leader in passing yards (9,434), passing touchdowns (104) and completions (769) among other statistics.
“He’s been a very, very good player before, he’s been extremely productive at Ohio State. You can look at all of his accolades, but the thing that impressed the most was he was the only three-time captain, to my knowledge, in Ohio State history,” Jones said.
“That means something, that means that your team really respects you, they feel strongly about you and that’s the kind of guy that we’re gonna need moving forward in this organization.”
After going unselected in the 2018 NFL Draft, Barrett signed with the New Orleans Saints, spending the majority of the season on the team’s practice roster. Stints with the Seattle Seahawks, another in New Orleans, and then the Pittsburgh Steelers followed. After a mini-camp appearance with the Dallas Cowboys in May of 2021, the six-foot-two, 225-pound dual-threat QB had been a free agent.
It was a long process for Jones to finally get Barrett to put pen to paper on a CFL contract — 2,636 days to be exact. He originally added him to Edmonton’s neg list on November 10, 2014 during his first year as a head coach in the Alberta capital. Jones is hoping it was worth the wait for Barrett to join him north of the border.