Gauthier 'in no hurry'

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:12 PM ET

Big Alexandre Gauthier will weigh all his options over the next few weeks. That is, unless he gets bowled over by an offer from the Renegades first.

Gauthier, the largest of Ottawa's players last season at 6-foot-7 and 310 lbs., is high on the team's most-wanted list of those eligible to become free agents Feb. 15.

The first overall pick in the 2002 Canadian College draft, Gauthier finally became a starter when he lined up as the team's left tackle for the last nine games in 2004. The Renegades may look at signing an American to play that position -- and move Gauthier to right tackle -- if they can get the 28-year-old from Quebec City to return.

Gauthier first expects to work out for some NFL teams in the next 2-3 weeks. Should he impress, he could be offered a spot on a practice roster down south, and a six-figure US salary.

"If the Renegades offer me that, I'll sign tomorrow," Gauthier said, laughing, from Quebec City yesterday.

In reality, Gauthier will likely be dangled a salary in the $60,000-$75,000 range by GM and coach Joe Paopao. And while it might be tempting, Gauthier said yesterday that he will be "in no hurry to sign before Feb. 15."

Gauthier is somewhat curious to see what other CFL interest he can attract.

"I don't absolutely have to wait," he said. "But it could be good for me to see what's going on around the league. Definitely, Ottawa would be one of my first choices. I had a good three years there, I like the coaches and I like the players.

"Money is an issue, but it's not the only thing."

WANTS TO BE STARTER

A chance to play regularly is also important to Gauthier. He says it doesn't matter to him if he lines up at left or right tackle.

"Right now in my career, I need to be a starter," he said. "I've spent enough time on the bench. I'm ready to play, and I deserve to play, too."

Securing Gauthier would add to an offensive line that will be centred by sturdy veteran George Hudson and also now has 2004 first-rounder Obby Khan, plus veteran guard Val St. Germain, who decided against filing for free agency by signing Thursday.

St. Germain said the line can bounce back after injuries forced shuffling that kept the unit out of sync last season, when Ottawa gave up a league-high number of sacks. He also feels the Renegades can be a playoff contender after a 5-13 record in 2004, but that much of their success will depend on keeping No. 1 quarterback Kerry Joseph healthy.

Joseph missed six games last season.

ST. GERMAIN LIKES LOOK

"Who would have thought Toronto would win the Grey Cup (in 2004)?" said St. Germain. "I've been involved in (a turnaround) like that before.

"When I was with Hamilton in 1997, we went 2-16. The next year, we went 12-5-1 and went to the Grey Cup. Four core guys were added, but the base was the same.

"Our goal again has to be to make the playoffs. After that, you just never know."

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


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