Barrenechea to shore up special teams

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:04 AM ET

In desperate need of better talent, the Edmonton Eskimos have taken one step in the right direction.

By acquiring CFL veteran Agustin Barrenechea in a trade from Hamilton yesterday for unproven rookie Jason Nedd, the Esks suddenly have a proven special teams player with added experience at middle linebacker.

"He has played on teams - on all special teams, that is huge for us," said Eskimo head coach Danny Maciocia, who knows his punt/kickoff units are struggling.

"He is a bigger body. And right now, we are really deep at free safety. And those are all smaller body types. We just need a bigger body type or two on special teams. He (Barrenechea) brings that."

Giving up on Nedd - a second-round pick in the 2007 draft - isn't a surprise.

The five-foot-10 non-import safety failed to make any impression on the practice field or when he was on the field for limited plays in real games.

The Esks also received a fourth-round pick in the 2008 draft in yesterday's deal.

But the key is Barrenechea, who will be in the lineup on Friday when Edmonton hosts Montreal at Commonwealth Stadium.

At six-foot-two and 235 pounds, he packs quite a load down the field on special teams, which is where he will play Friday.

With A.J. Gass at middle linebacker, Barrenechea will not see starting time on defence.

The 28-year-old non-import will just provide depth on defence.

But while this move for Edmonton was about getting better rather quickly, the Tabbies made the move because they saw the writing on the wall with the four-year CFL veteran.

The Ticats made an offer to re-sign Barrenechea on Monday, but he rejected the contract.

It took Hamilton brass less than 24 hours to trade him - obviously wanting to get something for him instead of losing him for nothing through free agency next winter.

"I didn't really feel it was in my best interests to sign what was offered on the table," said Barrenechea.

"This is my option year and I feel that there may be better opportunities for me in other places in the league."

Clearly, money played a role in turning down the offer.

But Barrenechea has also lost his starting middle linebacking job to rookie Zeke Moreno, who leads the CFL in tackles.

It had actually been a rocky two seasons on defence in Hamilton for the newest Eskimo.

After starting 17 games at MLB in 2005 and finishing third in the league with 96 tackles, Barrenechea lost that job at Hamilton training camp in 2006. He still managed to start nine games throughout that season, but hasn't started any this season.

"For me, I just want to be in the best opportunity in terms of playing and winning a championship," he said.

"I just want to be used to my fullest potential."

The Esks have not discussed future contract possibilities with Barrenechea.

SHORT YARDAGE: Still dealing with a nagging shoulder injury, starting running back Tyler Ebell didn't practice yesterday. But watch for him to practise today... Defensive back Stanford Samuels (foot) didn't practise yesterday. His status for Friday is unknown... Isaac Keys appears to have the inside track to start at defensive end Friday.


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