BRENNAN: Keeping Masoli was only to give Redblacks depth at QB

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Just because Jeremiah Masoli has agreed to a pay cut that will see him pull on his No. 8 Ottawa Redblacks jersey again doesn’t mean he should be viewed as the team’s No. 1 quarterback.

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Not now, certainly, not for the start of the 2024 season, and, with any luck, not ever again.

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That’s not at all meant as a slight against Masoli, who a half-dozen years ago was considered one of the top QBs in the CFL.

But because of injuries, he hasn’t played anything close to a full season since 2018 and, as he is still recovering from the ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered last July, it remains uncertain when the 35-year-old ball-slinger will be able to resume football activities.

In the meantime, as a team that hasn’t won more than four games in four seasons, it’s imperative the Redblacks find someone they can count on to play the most important position and play it well right out of the gate.

With any luck, that guy will take the ball and run, pass and score with it.

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For the next 10 years.

“When you look at pro football right now and what teams have gone through with injuries to quarterbacks, you want to layer in some depth there,” Redblacks general manager Shawn Burke said Monday. “If you look at Jeremiah, at some point in the season possibly being healthy and being an option for us if we needed him, it layers in some depth.

“On top of that, you have an experienced guy that can work with some young quarterbacks, that’s worked with our (new) offensive coordinator (Tommy Condell) before, and just has some intangibles he brings off the field.

“To keep that guy in the building, to bring him back, made sense to us.”

It’s safe to say the Redblacks are closely considering the QB options around the league they can pursue on Feb. 3, which is the start of the legal tampering period heading into free agency 10 days later.

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The consensus popular choice from that group seems to be Dru Brown, a 26-year-old who has spent the last three seasons as a backup with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Whether it matters, Brown doesn’t have the Condell connection that could work in the favour of a guy such as Matthew Shiltz, a 31-year old who has spent six seasons the CFL.

Like Masoli, Shiltz worked with Condell in Hamilton.

It’s believed another person of interest for Ottawa could be Chris Streveler, a 29-year old who started his pro career in Winnipeg but then spent four seasons in the NFL, most recently with the New York Jets.

Other current CFL signal-callers headed to the free agent market include Dakota Prukop (Winnipeg), Mason Fine (Saskatchewan), Dominique Davis (B.C.), Jake Dolegala (Saskatchewan) and Kai Locksley (Hamilton), but it’s unlikely Ottawa will have much interest in this group.

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The Redblacks also have four other quarterbacks under contract: Tyrie Adams, Tyrrell Pigrome, Jake Dunniway and Dustin Crum. Because of injuries, Crum had to play all 18 games last season after coming to camp as a fourth-stringer.

Nick Arbuckle, whose second stint with the team began in 2022, is a pending free agent who won’t be back.

“As I talked about at the end of last season, we feel the need to get more consistency at that position in terms of who’s playing and everything, and give our team a chance to layer in some depth there,” said Burke. “So I definitely think we’ll look at all avenues, and free agency could be one of them.

“We have several quarterbacks on our neg list that we’re communicating with, and then there’s always a trade avenues, so I expect us to look to improve our football club.

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“There are some quarterbacks entering free agency who have played well in this league,” he continued. “It’s not just one or two, there’s a handful, and there’s some guys that are free right now that have quite a bit of experience in our league.  So there’s definitely options out there. It’s about what’s a fit for us, both from most importantly a skill standpoint and the type of person we’re looking to add to to an organization. And there’s obviously a financial component as well.”

That guy used to be Masoli.

But in two seasons with Ottawa, the San Francisco native has been limited by injuries to play just five games, in which he has completed 89 of 135 pass attempts for 1,117 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.

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Masoli was due for a $100,000 roster bonus on Monday and scheduled to earn $400,000 in 2024 before he agreed to a restructured deal on the weekend that is keeping him in Ottawa.

According to a league source, he now will get $138,800 in hard money, which includes a $70,000 base, a $45,000 signing bonus, as well as $13,800 in housing which is paid out over 18 cheques and $5,000 towards community appearances.

He also will get up to $90,000 in incentives that are broken down to $5,000 per game for playing 51 percent of the team’s offensive snaps.

Masoli’s maximum earning potential next season will be $236,800.

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“Jeremiah, coach (Bob) Dyce and myself have have sat together a few times, and we let him know where things are sort of headed and then we focused on the business financial end,” said Burke. “His agent and myself worked through the parameters of a new deal over the last seven to 10 days and got finished on the weekend.”

When Masoli does return, it will surely be with a desire to prove he’s still got some game and years left in him.

He should also be a positive influence on Crum, who showed flashes of potential as well as leadership skills but was too raw for prime time.

“You’re always trying to develop ‘the next one’ within the organization, that’s why you bring in young guys,” said Burke. “We were definitely happy with Dustin, last year. He showed some great ability, both on and off the field, but at the same time, his career, the timing of it, was expedited because of necessity.

“We know we have to improve as a football club and we want to surround ourselves with the best available options to do so.”

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