On Sunday the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks announced that they acquired Shawn Burke as their next general manager. The move comes after they fired original general manager Marcel Desjardins in October, and bringing in Burke may have surprised a lot of people around the Ottawa Redblacks, fans, coaches and even players may have been surprised, especially after seeing all of the work that both Jeremy Snyder and Jean-Marc Edme were putting in while they served as interim general manager and interim assistant general manager, however maybe Burke coming into the nation’s capital will end up being a good move, time will tell.
Time will tell, but so will the moves he makes as the Redblacks’ general manager…
Coming off of two 3 win seasons, and holding a 6-26 record over the 2019 and 2021 CFL seasons, Burke will be looking to turn the Ottawa Redblacks around to the best of his ability, but it won’t be easy. There is a lot to do to ensure that the Ottawa Redblacks return as Grey Cup contenders in 2022, and out of all of the moves that have to be made by Burke and the staff he is expected to bring in, the biggest, and most popular one will come at the quarterback position.
Right now, under contract with the Ottawa Redblacks for the 2022 are quarterbacks Caleb Evans, Devlin Hodges, Taryn Christion and Tom Flacco while both Matt Nichols and Dominique Davis are pending free agents from the Redblacks. Of those quarterbacks named, the one’s in house with the best chance of leading the Redblacks out in 2022 would be both Evans and Hodges.
Evans, a 23 year old from Mansfield, Texas, who played his collegiate career at University of Louisiana Monroe started 7 of Ottawa’s 14 games in 2021, finishing with 1,279 passing yards, 345 rushing yards and 8 offensive touchdowns, holding 2 of the Redblacks 3 wins on the season, including his first professional start against the Edmonton Elks. He impressed all of Redblacks fans with his poise so early in his professional career and turned around the energy of the team when he took over under centre, giving the offence a new look in the passing game and speed in the running game, putting himself at the top of the list of in house quarterbacks.
Behind Evans would be Devlin “Duck” Hodges, a 25 year old quarterback out of Samford University. Hodges started 6 games with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019 where he went 3-3, and impressed a large part of the NFL. He has two years remaining on his three year contract with the Ottawa Redblacks after signing with the team midway through the 2021 CFL season and has yet to have the opportunity to prove himself. Outside of appearing in the final 4 games of the 2021 CFL season, he has just gotten scrimmage opportunities with the Redblacks, making next year’s training camp his time to shine, especially under the new management.
If Shawn Burke decides to go with either Evans or Hodges as the starting quarterback of the Ottawa Redblacks in 2022, they would be paying a cheap contract to a starting quarterback, giving them the opportunity to build around them. In 2021 the Redblacks struggled to find consistency from the offensive line and play maker positions, both running back and receiver. By choosing to pay less at the quarterback position, Burke and his staff would be able to put more money towards the positions of need, including the offensive line and playmaker positions, but there’s no guarantees that Burke goes that way, in fact it doesn’t look like he will.
With Burke coming into Ottawa fresh out of Hamilton, where he has helped lead the Ti-Cats to two consecutive Grey Cups with two starting caliber quarterbacks in both Dane Evans and Jeremiah Masoli, it looks more and more like one of those two could be the starting quarterback of the Ottawa Redblacks in 2022. They both are pending free agents, and Evans has already spoke out about testing the free agency market, therefore it is more than a possibility of it happening, but with what cost? In 2021 Jeremiah Masoli signed for what would have been a one year, $350,000 contract with a $125,000 signing bonus. At 33 years old and an injury filled past, Masoli may not be the perfect quarterback for the Ottawa Redblacks when it comes to the future, however if they bring him in alongside Caleb Evans he could be the starting quarterback for the Redblacks to kickoff 2022, bringing his experienced background and winning background to the team where he can help young 23 year old quarterback Caleb Evans, who has a very similar skill set develop into being a starting quarterback in the CFL.
Dane Evans, at 28 years old, with 3 seasons in the CFL behind him will be testing free agency and if brought into Ottawa would be named the starting quarterback of the Redblacks, but what would happen to the two young quarterbacks under contract with Ottawa? Both Caleb Evans and Devlin Hodges can’t fit on the active roster together if there is a quarterback ahead of them both on the depth chart. One would have to be on the practice roster, with Evans sitting at 23 and Hodges at 25 you want to see them get game action, to become the future of a team, not take practice reps and practice reps only.
Getting either of the Hamilton quarterbacks would be bringing in an experienced, and well known leader, however it would take away what was already built during the second half of the 2021 CFL season in the nation’s capital.
Other pending free agent quarterbacks across the CFL and current free agents include Zach Collaros, Trevor Harris, McLeod Bethel Thompson, Antonio Pipkin, David Watford and Jake Maier. Those named quarterbacks are not expected to join the Redblacks, however anything is possible this off-season as the Redblacks will look to make major changes, having already started with new management.
Who do you want to see under centre with the Ottawa Redblacks for the 2022 CFL season?