'Gades letting star slip away

Jason Armstead is hoping to catch on with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Bucs after a tryout. (Tony Caldwell,...

Jason Armstead is hoping to catch on with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Bucs after a tryout. (Tony Caldwell, Ottawa Sun file photo)

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:56 AM ET

The uncertainty of the Renegades ownership and management situation could soon cost the club its most exciting player. Receiver/return specialist Jason Armstead will work out today for the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the guessing is there's a decent chance he'll wind up signing a free-agent contract with them.

Armstead, Ottawa's top rookie in 2004, was the East Division's nominee as most outstanding special teams player. He is also one of 21 Renegades eligible to become CFL free agents on Feb. 15.

While heeding the bottom line, the team failed to sign any players to extensions during the season and, with the ownership picture still unsettled, there has been nobody in the general manager or coach's chair to resign key individuals from the roster since the season ended.

Armstead, who led the Renegades in all-purpose yards (2,306), was one of the CFL's top kick and punt returners.

After getting rare opportunities on offence in the early going, he wound up as the team's third-leading receiver.

The 25-year-old from Moss Point, Mississippi, very well could have inked a multi-year deal with Ottawa had Joe Paopao and/or Eric Tillman still been coach and GM, respectively.

Paopao developed a bond with Armstead this season, and Tillman and the slightly built speedster share the same home state as well as a good relationship.

Both Paopao and Tillman, whose contracts with the Renegades expired on Dec. 31, realized the importance of getting Armstead signed.

Meanwhile, the team's ownership structure could have a number of looks in 2005. Either of majority owners Bill Smith and Randy Gillies could still wind up buying the other out, as negotiations continue on a daily basis. If Smith ends up with the team, Bernie Glieberman may still become his partner. Team president Brad Watters yesterday said other outsiders, not from this area, have expressed interest in buying in.

Watters also revealed there's a possibility the team could go forward with virtually the same ownership intact, minus Kevin Kimsa, who has a 15% share.

"The majority of the crew might stay together," said Watters. "Everyone involved knows we have to get something done quickly."

Watters said there was a chance the picture would become clearer by week's end. At the latest, the team must have its house in order by Jan. 17, as that's when the CFL's board of governors will begin meetings in West Palm Beach, Fla.

The season ticket campaign also begins Jan. 15, with prices in some sections expected to go up and prices in other areas of the stadium going down.

Watters also plans on announcing a GM before the meetings. If it's not going to be Tillman -- and his return would be a shock -- then Bob O'Billovich is a candidate for the post. Watters said there is also a handful of others to consider.

It will be up to the general manager to hire a coach.

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


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