The fourth-year Renegades made a rookie mistake yesterday. They counted their Eds before they were hatched.
A darn good one was in their hands late Wednesday night and into yesterday morning, but inevitably he wound up slipping from their fingers the way balls escaped Ottawa receivers in 2002.
In the end, free agent wide out Ed Hervey opted to stay put in Edmonton, while the Renegades stood stunned and with a whole lot of egg on their face.
There is blame to be shared for the fiasco reminiscent of the Scott Flory tug of war between Montreal and Saskatchewan last year. Hervey agent Paul Sheehy is deserving a fair share, as it was he who couldn't wait to send out the mass e-mail declaring his fleet footed client had bolted to the nation's capital less than 22 hours after becoming eligible. And surely the player himself was consulted prior to the over-the-phone handshake.
But there's plenty of room on the hook here for rookie Renegades GM Joe Paopao and/or Chris McRobbie, the former video operations guy who will celebrate his first anniversary as the team's director of player personnel in five weeks.
Early into his new, dual role last month, Paopao announced he had reached "verbal" contract agreements with young talents Jason Armstead and Crance Clemons, and at the time you wondered about the possibilities of such deals blowing up in his face. Didn't he see Jerry Maguire? Didn't he know a guy's word isn't always as strong as oak?
It's obvious why Paopao would okay a release yesterday morning confirming Sheehy's shouts from the rooftop the night before. The same reasons he was anxious to reveal that Armstead and Clemons were returning. He was trying to generate some excitement among the masses. He was trying to kickstart season ticket sales. He was trying to prove the Renegades are going to do what it takes to right wrongs from a 5-13 flop.
Landing Hervey would be a significant step. He's a dangerous weapon, which is why Ottawa was willing to pay him $465,000 over the next three years.
But in haste to claim one of the CFL's top free agents on the first day of shopping, the Renegades didn't do the due diligence. Instead of pulling off a coup, they showed their management inexperience.
The result was another black eye on an organization desperately trying to improve its reputation after all the stumbling it did this off-season leading into Paopao's rehiring.
LEGAULT, PILON ON WAY IN
There will be a positive shot of PR today, however, when the Renegades will announce that defensive linemen Cameron Legault and Marc Pilon are leaving the Grey Cup finalists B.C. Lions to play here, in their hometown.
That will leave their official free agent scorecard at 2-2, given that they lost highly thought of DB Anthony Malbrough and offensive tackle Alexandre Gauthier to the Calgary Stampeders on Day 1. Make that 3-3, counting the Hervey reverse.
More movement is expected shortly, if it hasn't happened already. The Renegades are now focused on Lions WR Chris Brazzell, who's demanding price probably was bumped with the signings of Hervey and Jermaine Copeland (Calgary, $400,000 for two years). They've also shown interest in Winnipeg's Markus Howell, who lined up both as a receiver and a cornerback last season. They talked to defensive lineman Rahim Abdullah, but he will first entertain some NFL opportunities next month.
Ottawa will also lose more players. Word is Winnipeg wants Chris Burns, and maybe fellow Renegades lineman Mike Abou-Mechrek, too. Roger Dunbrack could be headed to Hamilton.
Most significantly, heart and sole linebacker Kelly Wiltshire is now being heavily courted by the Eskimos.
Wiltshire will take the next couple of days to do some soul searching in his home town of Montreal. Before he left, he insisted he hasn't ruled out returning to the Renegades.
"They're right up there," he said. "I told Coach 'P' I'm going to need some time to think. I stand firm. I'm not going to do anything overnight."
Paopao might want to get that promise in writing.