February 20, 2024

Free Agency Roundup: REDBLACKS Make Splashes On Both Sides Of The Ball

Saskatchewan Roughriders vs Ottawa REDBLACKS September 22, 2023 PHOTO: Andrea Cardin/Freestyle Photography

It’s been a busy offseason for the Ottawa REDBLACKS.

Before the legal tampering, and free agency windows even opened, General Manager Shawn Burke and Co. made a series of moves that both ensured vital players would remain in the nation’s capital, while also adding high-end talent on offence, defence, and special teams.

Here’s a look at the key moves made by Ottawa over the last couple of months.


After the end of 2023 saw the REDBLACKS get extensions done with the likes of star defensive back Brandin Dandridge, and perennial All-Star punter Richie Leone, the beginning of 2024 served to keep more key faces in red and black heading into next season.

Bob Dyce and Cory McDiarmid’s special teams units should see no drop-off, with standouts in defensive back Ty Cranston, defensive lineman and REDBLACKS original Nigel Romick, as well as linebackers Tyron Vrede, and Gary Johnson Jr. all agreeing to contract extensions before the beginning of free agency.

Speaking of continuity, the REDBLACKS defensive line that helped rack up 45 sacks last season is back in full force for 2024. Star defensive ends Bryce Carter — who finished second in the CFL with 12 sacks in 2023 — and 2022’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player Lorenzo Mauldin IV both signed one-year deals, as did defensive tackle Mike Wakefield, who enjoyed a career year in 2023.

Another player who set career high’s a year ago was linebacker Frankie Griffin, and the hard-hitting 28-year-old was rewarded with a contract extension that will keep him with the REDBLACKS through 2025. In the secondary, Damon Webb’s 64-tackle and three-interception season sees him also return to Ottawa, as do fellow defensive backs Justin Howell, and Money Hunter, who returned from a training camp injury late in the 2023 season.

On the offensive side of the ball, the REDBLACKS saw a crowded free agent running back market, but got their guy before February 13 rolled around. Devonte Williams’ explosive season in Ottawa ended with a total of 1,002 rushing yards in 15 games, and he looks to achieve his goal of helping to bring a Grey Cup back to the capital, re-signing with the team for two years. Another 1,000-yard man is also coming back to TD Place, as receiver Justin Hardy’s prolific 2023 season culminates in a one-year deal.

Also back to catch passes for the REDBLACKS is former All-Star receiver Bralon Addison, reunited with his old offensive coordinator from Hamilton in Tommy Condell. The Oregon product played in eight games after recovering from an achilles injury suffered the year prior, turning in 272 receiving yards, and a pair of touchdowns in 2023.


While the aforementioned top contributors from 2023 are back, the REDBLACKS made some major additions as well, bringing in playmakers on both sides of the ball.

Following his release from the BC Lions, star receiver Dominique Rhymes agreed to return to the city where he began his CFL career, signing a two-year deal with the REDBLACKS. Prior to three seasons out west, including a 1,401-yard and 11-touchdown 2022 campaign, the Miami native spent the first three years of his pro career with the REDBLACKS, helping them to a Grey Cup appearance in 2018, and racking up 1,056 yards and five touchdowns in 2019. Joining a receiving corps that already boasts, Hardy, Addison, and 2022 All-Star Jaelon Acklin, to name a few, the REDBLACKS have all the pieces to air it out in 2024.

Of course, quarterback is the most important position in football, and Ottawa made another splash by adding a pivot. The undisputed top man on the market heading into free agency was Dru Brown, who has spent the last three seasons backing up Zach Collaros with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Were learning from one of the all-time greats not enough, the 26-year-old was outstanding when called upon, throwing for 983 yards, nine touchdowns, and no interceptions last season. Not wanting to miss out on their man, Burke and the REDBLACKS were proactive; acquiring Brown’s negotiating rights for a fifth-round draft pick ahead of free agency, and subsequently inking him to a two-year deal.

Now with Brown, standout sophomore Dustin Crum, veteran Jeremiah Masoli, and youngsters Tyrie Adams, Tyrrell Pigrome, and Jake Dunniway in their quarterback room, the REDBLACKS have no shortage of depth under centre.

Defensively, Ottawa was dealt a blow when linebacker Douglas Coleman left the team to pursue an opportunity with the Chicago Bears, but wasted no time in adding a game-changing defensive player. Following a season in which he finished second in the CFL with 124 total tackles, a career-high six sacks, and a forced fumble, All-Star defensive back Adarius Pickett agreed to join the REDBLACKS on a one-year deal, and “The Party Starter” now adds to a defensive unit painted with star players.

The REDBLACKS also made adds on the offensive line, signing a 2022 Grey Cup Champion in Canadian Dariusz Bladek, and Phillip Norman, who has been with the BC Lions since 2019. On defence, linebacker Silas Stewart also makes his way to the nation’s capital, after three seasons with the Calgary Stampeders.

It’s been a busy offseason for the REDBLACKS, and shows no signs of slowing down, as the march to the 2024 CFL Draft rolls on, where Ottawa owns the second overall pick