RedBlacks coach Rick Campbell, GM Marcel Desjardins and the other folks from the team's football operations department haven't gotten much sleep since getting a peek at the other CFL teams' protected lists on Monday.
With work days beginning at the crack of dawn, team by team the RedBlacks have gone over each player left unprotected, taking into consideration variables like age, talent, potential, football smarts, coachability and attitude. It's been a painstaking process that could pay big dividends when the RedBlacks get to slot some pieces into their puzzle during the CFL's expansion draft on Dec. 16.
Right at the top of their wishlist is an experienced quarterback. Pencil in 34-year-old Calgary Stampeder Kevin Glenn as one of the names Ottawa will call next Monday. By rules of the expansion draft, each team can protect just one QB and it's a lock that Bo Levi Mitchell isn't going anywhere. So Ottawa will get to choose between Drew Tate and Glenn from the Calgary roster. Bet on it being the latter -- though the decision is made tougher by the likely availability of non-import punter/kicker Rob Maver. If the RedBlacks choose a QB from a roster, they can't take a kicker from that same team.
Backup QB hotshots Zach Collaros (Toronto) and Drew Willy (Saskatchewan) will both be free agents on Feb. 15 -- expect one of them to end up in an Ottawa uniform.
"We could have better quarterbacks than anyone in the league," said Desjardins. "Some of the better young (quarterbacks) are free agents so we won't go that route, but there are at least three guys that are interesting to us, guys that are still under contract for next year. When you look at the list and see who's available, you're probably going to get an older guy and a younger guy."
The RedBlacks won't be addressing specific needs -- really everything is a need at this point.
"We want to find the best players available," said Campbell. "We need to find a lot of players right now. But after we've selected several players, we might not want to repeat at a position."
There's a good chance the RedBlacks will swing some deals following the draft.
"We've talked to teams in general. But we have no trades in place," said Desjardins. "We may draft some guys that have a lot more value to other teams than we feel they have to us right away."
One of the quirks of the process the RedBlacks have to deal with are the unprotected players who are free agents, with teams allowing a large number of contracts to expire coinciding with the RedBlacks' entry into the league. Some might suggest there are shenanigans afoot -- where teams already have nudge and wink agreements in place with certain free agents, but can leave them unprotected with little fear they'll be selected in the expansion draft.
"There are an inordinate amount of free agents across the league right now," said Desjardins. "We try to work around it and not get too frustrated about it."
Compared to what the Ottawa Renegades got in 2002, this expansion draft has its pluses and minuses.
"(Each team being allowed to protect just one QB) is really the biggest thing that gives us a better chance than the last time around, but there elements of the other expansion draft I preferred," said Desjardins. "Last time, when they were picking the second round of Canadians, they were allowed to take a second-round pick in the Canadian college draft if there wasn't a suitable player for them. I would love to have that option now.
"We will have some good players, but it's also able to be manipulated and it has been in a way that makes it challenging."