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Redblacks GM Burke in contact with QB Masoli as bonus deadline looms

Jeremiah Masoli Ottawa Redblacks Jeremiah Masoli - The Canadian Press

Shawn Burke has a big decision to make.

The Ottawa GM confirmed Tuesday veteran quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is due a signing bonus (reportedly $100,000) Monday. Masoli joined the Redblacks before the 2022 season but has missed most of the last two years due to injury.

"Since the end of the season through now we've been in constant communication with him," Burke told reporters Tuesday via Zoom from the CFL meetings in Nashville, Tenn. "He knows his role is changing with the team.

"Our perspective going into training camp this year is much different than the last two years so he definitely knows where we're at. We'll continue to converse and hopefully work toward something as the week goes on."

The five-foot-10, 208-pound Masoli suffered a season-ending leg injury in '22 that forced him to miss the first three games last year. In his return to action July 8, Masoli went down with a torn Achilles tendon in a 21-13 loss to Hamilton.

The former Oregon star has appeared in just five games through two seasons with Ottawa, completing 90-of-136 passes (66.1 per cent) for 1,220 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Over 10 CFL campaigns, Masoli sports a 66.5 per cent completion average with 16,675 passing yards, 82 TDs and 53 interceptions while rushing for 1,546 yards (5.9-yard average) and 20 touchdowns.

The usual recovery time for ACL injuries is eight-to-12 months.

"Our expectation will be that Jeremiah would be ready when he says he's ready and when the doctors say he's ready," Burke said. "Until that happens you can't expect too much."

Masoli wasn't the only Ottawa quarterback to suffer a season-ending Achilles injury. The week before, Tyrie Adams led the Redblacks to their first win of the year, a 26-7 decision over Edmonton, completing 14-of-20 passes for 185 yards and a TD while rushing for 31 yards on three carries.

Adams was seemingly injured in the fourth quarter but finished the contest.

An ineffective Nick Arbuckle and injuries to Adams and Masoli forced Ottawa to play rookie Dustin Crum. After finishing a yard short of putting the Redblacks in position to force overtime against Hamilton, Crum rallied them to a stunning 31-28 upset win over Winnipeg in his first CFL start.

The six-foot-three, 207-pound Crum was a bright spot for Ottawa (4-14). He completed 266-of-385 passes (69.1 per cent) for 3,109 yards with 10 TDs and 12 interceptions while rushing for 741 yards (tops among league quarterbacks) and a CFL-high nine TDs.

"Dustin obviously got thrown into the fire a bit," Burke said. "If we look back, he came in on practice roster expansion for about three-to-four weeks the season before not getting many reps.

"And in training camp he was competing for the No. 3-4. Excellent prospect, competitive, smart, has a bright future in this league. He's definitely held in high regard by our organization and we want to continue to see him grow."

Especially under the guidance of new offensive co-ordinator Tommy Condell, who'd spent the last four seasons as Hamilton's offensive co-ordinator.

Ottawa has Crum and Adams, along with Tyrrell Pigrome and Jake Dunniway, all under contract. Arbuckle remains on the roster but is expected to hit free agency next month.

Burke said he did speak with veteran quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who signed a one-year deal with Edmonton last weekend. He has also been in contact with Chris Streveler, who helped Winnipeg win the '19 Grey Cup but has since spent time since in the NFL with Arizona, Baltimore, Miami and the New York Jets.

"I wouldn't be doing my job if I wasn't looking at all avenues," Burke said.

One of the more intriguing quarterbacks slated to hit CFL free agency is Dru Brown, who has been solid in spot duty with Winnipeg.

"I don't like talking about other teams' quarterbacks but you watch the league," Burke said. "What I talked about Dustin being progressed quickly through the league, Dru has been the opposite to where he's been able to grow and you've seen that maturity.

"Definitely a good, young quarterback in this league."

Whoever starts for Ottawa in '24 will be tasked with leading the franchise to its first playoff appearance since its 27-16 loss to Calgary in the '18 Grey Cup. The Redblacks have posted consecutive 4-14 campaigns since Burke took over as GM.

"Obviously the last two years haven't gone as we envisioned in the quarterback room, to no fault of anyone," Burke said. "Injuries happen.

"But we need to have more consistency in that room in terms of who is playing and we'll investigate to improve our club."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 9, 2024.