Yo! 'Gades set to fly

Jason Armstead, described by Ottawa Renegades coach and GM Joe Paopao as a game-breaking return...

Jason Armstead, described by Ottawa Renegades coach and GM Joe Paopao as a game-breaking return specialist, has verbally agreed to sign with the team in for the 2005 season. (Ottawa Sun File Photo)

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:14 PM ET

For about $85,000, Jason Armstead has assured the Renegades he'll be flying north for the football season.

Coach and GM Joe Paopao says the game-breaking return specialist/wide receiver from Mississippi has verbally agreed to a contract extension that will cover the next two years (plus the club option for a third) rather than continue his pursuit of a satisfactory signing bonus in the NFL.

But that's not the only good news Paopao passed along to the diehards yesterday.

The 'Gades' mailbox will soon have in it a returned (one-year) contract signed by Yo Murphy, the team's leading receiver in 2004. The 33-year-old Californian changed his mind about retirement after Paopao was re-signed two weeks ago.

Also, a verbal agreement has been reached with Crance Clemons, an exceptional cornerback with Ottawa in 2003 who spent last season with the Indianapolis Colts.

What's more, the club has signed starting offensive guard Val St. Germain -- as reported in yesterday's Sun -- to a two-year deal (plus an option), as well as non-import defensive tackle Matt Kirk (who starred the past four years at Queen's) and 23-year old import tackle Derek Kennard from the University of Nevada Wolfpack.

All in all, a pretty good way to kick off the season-ticket campaign, no?

"This will give our fans something to think about," said Paopao, who has "cap room" he didn't have last winter after the Renegades had to issue big contracts to the likes of Kerry Joseph and Pat Woodcock. "We have made an investment in our future."

Armstead is well worth the (approximate) $35,000 raise he's getting in 2005. A rookie last season, the 25-year-old started out as Ottawa's sixth receiver and a return specialist who couldn't locate daylight.

By mid-season, he was one of the most dangerous players in the league, particularly when lining up for punts and kickoffs.

Armstead has recently worked out for NFL teams, including Tampa Bay and the New York Jets, and has received contract offers. But they have included minimal signing bonuses, with no security of making the team.

"When they offer you $3,000-$5,000 (signing bonus) it's tough," said Paopao. "You're rolling the dice.

"In our mind, you take the dice out of the guy's hand. You show him you're serious about him, so you make a commitment."

Getting Murphy back is also a huge plus. He caught 61 passes for 1,090 yards and seven touchdowns last season.

The Renegades, who are also expected to make a pitch to possible free-agent star receivers like Ed Hervey and Jermaine Copeland next month, potentially bolster their secondary significantly with the addition of the 25-year old Clemons.

He had three interceptions in eight games for the Renegades in 2003, then dealt with injury problems last season.

"We believe he'll come back to the form he showed here," said Paopao. "He's better than good. (With Clemons), we just got better."

BETWEEN THE LINES: Paopao said the 'Gades would "absolutely" pick up the option on the contract of LB Gerald Vaughn.


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