Redblacks GM Burke talks Masoli's restructured contract, offseason plans
Following a fourth consecutive campaign that saw the club finish last in the East Division, Ottawa Redblacks general manager Shawn Burke has a busy off-season ahead of him in trying to improve his team for 2024.
Ottawa started the year at 3-3, but after a pair of injuries to the team's top two quarterbacks, an inexperienced Dustin Crum took over under centre.
Crum, 25, began the season as the team's fourth-string signal caller, but ended up throwing for 3,108 passing yards and 10 touchdowns. He added 741 rushing yards and nine scores on the ground en route to winning his team's nomination for Most Outstanding Rookie. But ultimately, his play couldn't get the Redblacks back to the postseason for the first time since losing in the 2018 Grey Cup to the Calgary Stampeders.
Burke, entering his third year as the Redblacks GM, has already restructured quarterback Jeremiah Masoli's contract. The former Oregon Ducks standout has played in just five games across two seasons with Ottawa after dealing with injuries to his ACL and Achilles. Prior to his deal being restructured, the 35-year-old veteran was due a reported $100,00 roster bonus on Jan. 15.
"We've lessened the burden of the roster bonus that was due today, and worked together on a deal that is, sort of, more reflective of the role," said Burke when speaking on TSN 1200 Ottawa Monday. "Much like a lot of quarterbacks in our league, there is some play time drawn in to it, that if he is playing he deserves to be paid more.
"It's a deal that compensates him if he gets back on the field, but helps us work together of having him (be) a part of the team."
It remains to be seen if Masoli will take snaps under centre for the Redblacks again as their newfound financial flexibility could allow Burke to pursue the possibility of adding another quarterback to the roster via trade or free agency this off-season.
"Jeremiah and Tyrie [Adams] are both coming off injuries, so until they get back on the field and they show that they are at 100 per cent, it's sort of all bets are off. Until you get to camp and get to physical them and get to see them progress, you don't know where they're at exactly because nothing replicates live football.
"We'll look at all avenues to have a strong quarterback room."
The CFL's free agency period opens on Feb. 13, with Ottawa expected to be an active suitor for many players who choose the test the market. But in the interim, the Redblacks have already begun extending players from this past season who were set to become free agents next month.
Ty Cranston, Brandin Dandridge, Michael Domagala, Anthony Gosselin, Richie Leone, Nigel Romick and Michael Wakefield have all re-signed, and Burke isn't done yet.
"There's a number of ongoing conversations. We obviously have some good players still unsigned that were productive for us, so what we wanted to do as an organization is be able to present them of, sort of, what our coaching staff was going to look like, what our plan was. [We] waited until the end of December, early into the new year to really get talking to some of these guys."
The Redblacks are coming off of back-to-back 4-14 seasons since Burke took the role of general manager.