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Redblacks bringing QB Nick Arbuckle to Ottawa for visit next week

The Ottawa Redblacks will dial up their best sales pitch next week while they’re hosting Nick Arbuckle.

The Redblacks will bring the quarterback (and likely his wife Zakiyyah Shabazz) into the nation’s capital to get a close-up look at the city and the organization, trying to persuade him to sign and become the team’s No. 1 quarterback for the 2020 season. Ottawa acquired the rights to Arbuckle from the Calgary Stampeders Jan. 3, giving up a third-round pick in the CFL Draft. If Ottawa is able to sign the 26-year-old Arbuckle, they’ll also swap first-round picks with the Stampeders, giving up the No. 1 overall for the sixth overall choice.

The Redblacks have exclusive negotiating rights to Arbuckle until nine days before the Feb. 11 free-agency period begins. If Arbuckle doesn’t sign with Ottawa prior to Feb. 11, it’s expected the Toronto Argonauts will offer him big money to be their No. 1 guy.

“They’re here to see what we’re all about,” said Redblacks GM Marcel Desjardins. “They can visit the city a bit, get to know people around here and talk some football. (Head coach) Paul (LaPolice) will get into the offence, I’ll get into the bigger picture stuff. That’ll be what’s on the agenda.”

When given the opportunity to play last season—due to an injury to Calgary’s starting QB Bo Levi Mitchell —Arbuckle produced big time. Out of Georgia State, Arbuckle completed 174 of 238 passes for 2,103 yards, with 11 touchdown tosses and five interceptions. In a string of seven games starting in place of Mitchell, Arbuckle had three 300-plus-yard passing games (368 versus Hamilton, 370 versus Ottawa and 370 versus Montreal).

“You can go back to last year when he beat us here, that’s a guy who was on our radar,” Desjardins said earlier this month. “I don’t think we make the trade if we didn’t think (he could be our No. 1 quarterback in 2020).”

“I thought he did a lot of good things for a young guy,” LaPolice told Postmedia last week. “In a small sample size, he’s somebody who put points on the board, he scored touchdowns, he created first downs, he threw a lot of completions, he stayed on the fieeld and was able to lead his team to wins.”

The Redblacks, Argos and possibly the Winnipeg Blue Bombers would have interest in getting Arbuckle signed.

“We’ve already talked just in a general sense ballpark (salary numbers),” said Desjardins. “So I have an idea what the expectation is. We’ll see where we get to once the visit is happening. Hopefully we get something resolved before the end of the month.

“I’m confident in the sense that I know what this city and organization have to offer — I don’t think there’s anything out there better than what we have. I don’t know specifically what they’ll be looking at, but I feel good about what we have to offer. Who knows? Maybe there’s a connection to another city that might be more appealing to him. I don’t even mean on the football side, I mean on the personal side. I honestly don’t know that.

“It’s not all about money. He has to comfortable in his environment, his wife has to be comfortable in the environment. This city has a lot to offer.”

IT’S CFL WEEK, SORTA … After successful Mark’s CFL Weeks in Regina and Winnipeg in 2017 and 2018, the league —with collective bargaining agreement uncertainty — postponed the event (originally supposed to be in Ottawa) in 2019. So what about 2020? Well, some of the events that have been part of CFL Weeks in the past will be co-ordinated around the expanded CFL Combine (including several global prospects) in Toronto March 26-28. Many of the league’s star players will be brought to Toronto March 23-25 to give the week a little extra push. But there won’t be all of the community involvement that there was in Regina or Saskatoon. Those elements are certainly something the CFL hopes to get back to in future years.

Said CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie at last week’s winter meetings at Blue Mountain Resort, north of Toronto. “We know we’ve got the teams excited about the idea of hosting a CFL Week style event. We get to back to the teams and talk about it. That’s a property we think could have great long-term benefits for the development of our fan base.”

THE END AROUND: The CFL minimum salary will jump from $54,000 to $65,000 for the 2020 season. With a $50,000 jump in the team salary cap, you wonder where the money is going to come from.

Said Edmonton Eskimos GM Brock Sunderland: “It gives us a lot less money to go around. If you have 10 guys due to make $54,000, all of a sudden they’re going up $11,000 – that’s $110,000. When the ceiling only goes up $50,000, but the floor goes up that amount, it means — in my guess — probably quite a few of those fringe guys in the middle range, those three or four-year vets that are solid but not great, the reality is some of those guys won’t be with a team.”

TOUGH YEAR FOR SUPER DAVE: Coming off three straight Grey Cup appearances (and winning against Ottawa in 2018), it was a tough season for the Calgary Stampeders, who finished the regular season with a 12-6 record and were knocked out of the playoffs in the West Division semi-final. It was a tougher season for Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson.

“Everything we did last year was hard,” said Dickenson. “Every win was difficult, losses were heart-wrenching. There was nothing easy about 2019. We knew we’d have to be at our best to win every game. It was just a tough, long year. My mother-in-law was sick, my dad fell ice fishing, broke his femur, and he’s almost 80. Things came about that hopefully you don’t have to deal with on a yearly basis.”

Talking about coaching changes around the league, Dickenson said: “There’s a really young dynamic to the CFL head coaching right now. I’m probably considered an old guy now and I still feel pretty new to this job.”

THE END AROUND: The Redblacks have signed former Carleton Ravens DB Justin Howell to a one-year contract extension. The 23-year-old, selected in the seventh round of the 2018 CFL Draft, has played two seasons for the Redblacks. In 2019, he had 14 defensive tackles, eight special teams tackles and a sack … It was announced a couple of days ago on the Redblacks have signed DB David Jones out of the University of Richmond. He had been on the team’s neg list since June. Said Desjardins: “He’s got size — he’s over 6-foot — he’s got athletic ability, he’s got long arms. He’s not the fastest guy, but he plays faster than he times. In a nutshell, we think he’s a guy who can compete at multiple spots.”


LOVE CONNECTION: Ex-Redblacks coach Rick Campbell gets married, then heads to B.C.

From NFL to CFL: Ex-Redblacks DB Jeff Richards returns to Canada, signs with Argos

Henry Burris says Nick Arbuckle best QB option for Ottawa Redblacks


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