Starting QB? Ottawa Redblacks deal for Nick Arbuckle
The Ottawa Redblacks hope they’ve solved their biggest off-season need.
The Redblacks announced Friday afternoon they’d acquired quarterback Nick Arbuckle, sending a third-round draft pick and a conditional pick to the Calgary Stampeders. Now, the Redblacks will try to get Arbuckle to agree to a contract.
The 26-year-old, who is out of Georgia State, completed 174 of 238 passes for 2,103 yards, with 11 touchdown tosses and five interceptions for the Stampeders in 2019. In a string of seven games starting in place of injured Bo Levi Mitchell, Arbuckle had three 300-plus-yard passing games (368 versus Hamilton, 370 versus Ottawa and 370 versus Montreal).
“For someone who has limited play time, he’s a guy who gets things done,” Redblacks GM Marcel Desjardins said. “He’s not going to turn the ball over too much. He’s not going to make big mistakes; that’s something you can’t always teach. He’s not necessarily the most athletic player, but still can do things with his feet.”
Arbuckle rocketed to the top of the Redblacks’ wish list during the 2019 season.
“You can go back to last year when he beat us here, that’s a guy who was on our radar,” Desjardins said. “I don’t think we make this trade if we didn’t think (he could be our No. 1 quarterback in 2020).”
Arbuckle is a potential free agent so the Redblacks will now attempt to sign him, and if they do the Stampeders will get the conditional draft pick.
“(Starting) is obviously something I want to do,” Arbuckle told Postmedia’s Danny Austin nearly two months ago. “I thought I did pretty well and there’s thing I can improve on, but I thought I was getting better the more I played. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to play more in the league.”
Dominique Davis, Jonathon Jennings and Will Arndt all had a shot at being the No. 1 quarterback for the Redblacks during a horrible 2019 season that saw the team win just three times in 18 games.
Desjardins said finding a No. 1 quarterback is the team’s top off-season priority. Other quarterbacks potentially available through free agency are Matt Nichols, Zach Collaros and Chris Streveler (all of whom played for new Redblacks head coach Paul LaPolice in Winnipeg in 2019), and McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Jeremiah Masoli may have been at the top of the list, but he recently agreed to a one-year deal to stay in Hamilton.
This could also change the Redblacks’ plans for Davis, who has a contract for next season.
“We’ll wait and see,” Desjardins said. “I’m not going to get into the what-ifs, but obviously if you acquire somebody who you think can come in and start, it impacts the other people that are here.”
The Redblacks and Stampeders started talking about the deal in mid-December.
“What they were asking for and what we were willing to give up, we weren’t that far off,” Desjardins said. “We kind of put it aside over the holidays and picked it back up today, to be honest.”
Desjardins will reach out to Arbuckle and, along with the player’s agent, figure out a timeline for negotiating. Making the trade for Arbuckle well before free agency begins Feb. 11 makes a lot of sense. The starting quarterback picture is also a bit cloudy in Winnipeg and Toronto.
“It gives us a lot of time to allow him to get to know us in terms of what we’re about, what the city is about and what our new coaching staff is about,” Desjardins said. “And, likewise, I answer any questions he’ll have about what our plan is moving forward.”
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