It has been less than 72 hours since the Ottawa Redblacks lost Jeremiah Masoli in a game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in week five, but already, the team has shown their intent to move forward with the hand they have been dealt by making a trade with the Edmonton Elks. On Monday evening, the Redblacks re-acquired Nick Arbuckle in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2023 CFL Draft.
Without Masoli, the Redblacks looked like they would go into week six’s clash against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats with a quarterback room consisting of Caleb Evans, Tyrie Adams, and potentially recently signed Breylin Smith. Seeing the lack of experience, Redblacks’ general manager Shawn Burke acted on bringing in someone with a little bit of experience.
“When you look at our quarterback room right now, you have to anticipate what could happen,” said Burke during an interview on TSN 1200. “When you have an injured player that is out long-term, at most position groups, you’re usually going to have to fill it with a guy coming in.”
“Nick [Arbuckle] has been around, and he has played as both a starter and a backup,” he continued. “Secondly, it’s a weird scenario where he does have a tie to the organization, however, not having played a game. He was in our facilities, he lived in our city, he worked with coach [Paul] LaPolice through the playbook and the terminology, and he’s going to have a bit of a head start.”
With the Elks this season, Arbuckle has completed 74 of his 115 pass attempts for 892 yards, but has thrown just two touchdowns. To make matters worse, the 28-year-old has thrown a league-high eight interceptions, tied with Dane Evans for the league’s worst mark early on. If there is anything for Redblacks fans to be hopeful for, it’s that a change of scenery could possibly rekindle the player that was thought to be the “next one” in the CFL while he was the backup in Calgary.
Although Arbuckle was ultimately the player the Redblacks targeted, there were other options potentially available. Some of those players could have been Taylor Cornelius, Trevor Harris, Chris Streveler, or Vernon Adams Jr., but Burke says that Arbuckle was always one of their preferred options.
“From day one where I came in, there has been communication that goes on internally,” Burke said. “We had those conversations where we talked about both our internal guys and some external guys and we came up with a plan. We talked to several people, and Arbuckle was definitely at the top of the list of guys we were interested in. We zeroed in on wanting to get a guy with some experience and there was a couple out there, but there is not much when you get to this point of the season.”
“A lot of guys are tied to teams and it’s hard to get a guy that’s from down south [to come] up, especially with other leagues going on. On top of that, those guys don’t have the experience. Arbuckle was on the top of the guys we were really interested in, and it came together fairly quickly.”
Questions have already been asked about Arbuckle’s relationship with the Redblacks. Back in 2020, the Redblacks sent the first-overall pick to the Calgary Stampeders in exchange for Arbuckle’s exclusive negotiating rights, but in 2021, Ottawa released the young quarterback, opting to sign Matt Nichols instead. Some were concerned that the offseason move may have rubbed both organization and player the wrong way, but according to Burke, that isn’t the case.
“There’s nothing but great things to say from both parties, to be honest,” Burke said. “Anyone that plays in this league knows that it’s a small league, and often, there’s some crossover. I think people know that this is a game, but it’s also a business. I made well sure before the last 48 hours that there was no animosity, and that was verified when I welcomed Arbuckle. He’s ecstatic to get the opportunity to come back to Ottawa.”
The move not only secures the Redblacks a veteran quarterback that can give them some starts, but it also sends a message to the rest of the organization that dwelling on Masoli’s injury isn’t going to be an option. At 0-4, the Redblacks still have a chance to win the East Division, and bouncing back as soon as possible is critical as Ottawa enters a stretch of games against East opponents.
“I think it’s important because we want to have the strongest possible team out there,” Burke said. “In terms of deflation, I think that might be outside of our walls, and I think we have bounced back very much within our walls. We had a great day yesterday with a film review, and we attack problems within the organization, we don’t attack people.”
Whether Arbuckle comes in and starts right away is still up for debate, however. Burke wouldn’t suggest his role one way or another, but he doesn’t expect Arbuckle to come in and be Masoli.
“Football is ultimately a competitive sport,” Burke said. “It’s going to be coach LaPolice and his staff’s decision on who they feel is in the best spot to lead our team on the field.”
“We’re not asking anyone to replace Jeremiah Masoli,” Burke said. “Jeremiah is Jeremiah, Caleb is Caleb, Nick is Nick, and Tyrie is Tyrie. How we can do right by Masoli is doing things the way he does. He’s one of the hardest working guys, he’s in the facility first, out of the facility last, and giving him a chance where at the end of the season when he’s healthy, he can take a run. Playing your best football at the end of the year is what’s most important.”
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