It’s been a good week for the Ottawa Redblacks this week, something that hasn’t been said a whole lot about the team this season. Their struggles have been consistent and have had the fan base talking all season long, but with the focus now squarely on 2022, the team has a chance to make things right. On Tuesday, it was announced that kick/punt returner DeVonte Dedmon was re-signed to a one-year contract extension, but the special teams’ signings didn’t end there.
On Wednesday, the Redblacks announced that Richie Leone was coming back for 2022. Leone has been among the league’s best punters since joining the Redblacks in 2018 and while it’s often joked that punters aren’t that important, Leone has proven that they can be one of the most valuable assets on the field. In his 91 punts this season, Leone is averaging 46.9 yards per punt and has over 3,700 net punting yards.
“Richie is consistently at the top of the league in all punting statistics and he continues to improve each season,” said Redblacks Interim General Manager Jeremy Snyder. “We expect even more growth from him in the future and it’s another building block for 2022.”
Since joining the Redblacks, Leone’s partner in crime has been none other than Lewis Ward, the pro football record holder for the most consecutive field goals made with 69. On Thursday, the Redblacks announced that Ward would also be back in the nation’s capital for the 2022 season.
“Lewis Ward exemplifies what it means to be a Redblack,” said Snyder, “He works tirelessly at his craft and performs when called upon. We are excited to have Lewis in the fold for the 2022 season.”
Ward’s CFL career has been nothing short of spectacular. He has made 121 of his 132 attempts (91.7%) with a career-long of 56-yards. It’s been more than the 69 consecutive field goals (a number that smashed the previous record of 44 held by Adam Vinatieri), however. Ward has been consistently good in his three CFL seasons, and it was virtually a no-brainer for the Redblacks to bring him back.
The re-signing of Dedmon, Leone, and Ward doesn’t solve any of the problems that exist for the team, but it does stop any new ones from forming on the special teams. The Redbalcks’ special teams have been very good in 2021 in large part due to the three players they just re-signed, and while they won’t be on the field most of the time in 2022, the third phase of the game needs to be good. They have ensured it will be this week.
There’s certainly more work ahead for the Redblacks, not only with finding and signing players for 2022 but also finding a new general manager before the offseason. The work is only getting started, but they have laid a good foundation for what is coming next, and you have to like how things have started. The league’s best kick/punt returner, the league’s best punter, and the league’s best kicker will all be coming back to the nation’s capital in 2022.