Free Agency Recap: Ottawa Redblacks Lose Several Key Players to the Open Market
This year’s CFL Free Agency is all but complete and the Ottawa Redblacks made headlines by, ironically, making very few moves. Numerous Redblacks said farewell to Ottawa, changing the outlook of the defending Eastern Champions heading into the 2019 season.
Next season will represent a changing of the guard. Gone are Trevor Harris, Greg Ellingson and SirVincent Rogers. In are Jonathan Jennings and Nate Behar, as well as new opportunities at starting for many players already on the Redblacks’ roster.
- QB: Trevor Harris (to EDM)
- RB: William Powell (to SSK)
- WR: Greg Ellingson (to EDM)
- WR: Diontae Spencer (to NFL)
- OL: SirVincent Rogers (to EDM)
- DB: Rico Murray (to HAM)
- DL: A.C. Leonard (to SSK)
- LB: Kyries Herbert
- OL: Jon Gott
As you can see by this first list, many of the Redblacks’ key contributors from last season (including All-Star talents) have moved on. Edmonton poached three such players: Harris, Ellingson and Rogers.
Many of the departing players had been in Ottawa for several seasons, through countless big games and three Grey Cup appearances. Gone are many of the marquee players on the Redblacks roster, including their starting quarterback, their leading rusher, two of their top receivers, a star left tackle and a shutdown corner.
Between the players lost is a laundry list of accomplishments.
- 19 Division All-Star Selections
- 7 CFL All-Star Selections
- 7 Grey Cup Rings
- DB: Jonathan Rose
- QB: Dominique Davis
- RB: Mossis Madu
- WR: Dominique Rhymes
- DB: Corey Tindal
- DB: Sherrod Baltimore
- DL: Avery Ellis
- DL: Danny Mason
- WR: Julian Feoli Gudino
- OL: Jason Lauzon-Seguin
- OL: Nolan Macmillan
- DL: Michael Klassen
- DL: Jonathan Newsome
- DL: Michael Wakefield
- DL: Ettore Lattanzio
- DL: Nigel Romick
The Redblacks had one of the top defensive units last season, coordinated by defensive mastermind Noel Thorpe, and largely chose to keep that group together by re-signing nearly all of their soon-to-be free agents before free agency even began. Based on the way the offense looks heading into the season, the Redblacks may have to rely even more heavily on that defense to make stops and force turnovers.
With running back William Powell gone, Mossis Madu figures to be the workhorse in the Ottawa backfield. Madu only appeared in two games last season but had more of a role in seasons passed. Still, it will be his first chance at a long-term starting gig in the CFL.
One name that is not on any of the three lists is linebacker Chris Ackie. An all-around defender, Ackie is both young and a national, which makes him a valuable asset. He would be a prized addition for virtually any team in the CFL and appears to be testing the waters of free agency before committing to a new deal, whether it is in Ottawa or elsewhere.
- QB: Jonathan Jennings (from BC)
- WR: Nate Behar (from EDM)
- LB: Nicolas Boulay (from MTL)
- OL: Philippe Gagnon (from MTL)
- WR: Ryan Lankford (from WPG)
- LB: Kevin Francis (from SSK)
- WR: Caleb Holley (from SSK)
- DB: Troy Stoudermire (from CGY)
- DB: Chris Randle (from WPG)
Now, onto the new faces brought to the Redblacks for the 2019 season. As it often does in football, it all starts with the quarterback position. Jonathan Jennings had a magical 2016 season starting for the Lions but was up-and-down in the seasons since in BC.
With Jennings signed and Dominique Davis retained, there appears to be a quarterback duel brewing between the two for the starting job.
In terms of the offensive weapons the winner of that quarterback duel will need to compete, the Redblacks lost wide receivers Greg Ellingson and Diontae Spencer but brought in a few new talents. Namely, former Carleton Raven and Edmonton Eskimo Nate Behar.
Behar was the first real star of the post-revival Ravens football program. He was taken fifth overall in the CFL Draft by Edmonton two years ago, but not before providing one of the most memorable plays in recent Canadian football history: a ‘Hail Mary’ touchdown to win the 2014 Panda Game.
Two years after leaving the capital city, Behar will return to once again don the red and black, this time however for Ottawa’s pro team. Joining Behar are wide receivers Caleb Holley and Ryan Lankford, who were used as depth pass-catching options in Saskatchewan and Winnipeg respectively.
The Redblacks also added a new offensive lineman, a couple new linebackers and Chris Randle, a former All-Star defensive back that will presumably take over the spot of the now-departed Rico Murray.
The 2019 season could mark a new era of Redblacks football. Nevertheless, RNation will be hoping that the new players will bring the same sort of success that the fan base has become accustomed to in years past.
The Redblacks have established themselves as the class of the East Division the last four years, but the question of whether or not the are they still has become even more difficult to answer following a tumultuous free agency period.