Redblacks’ GM Shawn Burke reunites Paul LaPolice with quarterback he didn’t want in Nick Arbuckle

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

After getting confirmation that veteran quarterback Jeremiah Masoli will be out for at least a few months, Shawn Burke made the first major trade of his general manager tenure, bringing Nick Arbuckle back to the nation’s capital.

The trade reunites head coach Paul LaPolice with the QB he didn’t want last year.

Even though former GM Marcel Desjardins traded for Arbuckle’s rights and signed the promising 28-year-old to a two-year contract early in 2020 believing he was the quarterback of the future, LaPolice made it clear that he preferred a QB with whom he was more familiar. That led to Desjardins releasing Arbuckle, who immediately caught on with the Argonauts, and Ottawa bringing in Matt Nichols.

Although Arbuckle wasn’t blind-sided by the release, there did seem to be some bitterness with how things went down. Less than a year-and-a-half later, he finds himself back in Ottawa after bouncing between Toronto and Edmonton.

Adding the six-foot-one, 213-pound passer for the cost of a fourth-round pick in the 2023 CFL Draft achieves a couple of things.

It lets R-Nation know that the organization isn’t going to give up on the season even though the most important piece they added this off-season is now on the shelf. It’s the right approach to take if only because the East Division is still wide open.

Per sources, the Redblacks did not reach out to the Montreal Alouettes to inquire about the cost of trading for Vernon Adams Jr. or Trevor Harris. That makes sense because even if Burke had called, it’s unlikely the Als would have been willing to throw their divisional rival any kind of lifeline.

The move also keeps LaPolice’s seat warm. Last season’s struggles are well documented, but it was believed that with an overhauled roster and more talent at his disposal, the 52-year-old would finally be able to fully implement his offence and show why he’s considered one of the game’s best offensive minds.

Instead, Ottawa’s offence has scored five touchdowns in four games. By adding an experienced quarterback to the roster after losing Masoli, LaPolice cannot use the fact that he only has young quarterbacks to work with as an excuse if the losses keep piling up.

Second-year pro Caleb Evans has been put on notice. After a yo-yo 2021 rookie season in which he played eight games filled with equal measures of dazzling and head-shaking plays, the 23-year-old will be given the first crack at filling Masoli’s shoes.

He’ll need to show plenty of growth if he hopes to remain under centre. Should he falter, the team won’t hesitate to turn to the more experienced pivot who already had a full year to study LaPolice’s playbook and terminology.

If Evans or Tyrie Adams can’t get the job done, it’ll be Arbuckle — the man LaPolice didn’t want — who may wind up saving his job.

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).