England's in sight for Paopao

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

The Renegades are trying to add the established sack specialist they've never had.

They're just waiting to see if the Toronto Argonauts are going to accept their offer for him.

After some weekend mulling that lasted into yesterday, coach Joe Paopao had decided to make his second trade as Ottawa's GM by acquiring rush end Eric England from the Grey Cup champions.

It's believed the Renegades are willing to give up the second-overall pick in the upcoming Canadian college draft plus a player off their negotiation list in return, and that the ball is now in Toronto's court.

No deal had been made as of last night.

The Renegades would still have a first-round pick, the fifth-overall selection, which they obtained from the Edmonton Eskimos in return for defensive lineman Clinton Wayne last season.

Meanwhile, the Renegades have added to their tidy collection of Ottawa natives by re-signing veteran offensive lineman Mike Sutherland to a one-year (plus an option) deal worth about $90,000 if he avoids the injury problems that plagued him last season.

Sutherland's bargaining power increased over the past couple of weeks as offensive linemen Alexandre Gauthier (Calgary) and Mike Abou-Mechrek (Winnipeg) relocated via free agency, and Chris Burns priced himself out of the Renegades interest.

Entering his 10th CFL season, Sutherland is an on-air French radio station personality in Gatineau who the Renegades like for his versatility as much as his experience, as he can play all positions along the line.

"I was always under the impression I was going to be back here," said Sutherland, who harboured no resentment about not being included in the first wave of players Paopao tried to re-sign. "When you have some 20-odd free agents, you have to get a list together and prioritize. He probably has a docket this high. The guy is overwhelmed."

Although they have now lost three Canadian offensive linemen, the Renegades expect improvement from a line that allowed the most sacks in the CFL last season, when three of their quarterbacks were injured at least once.

To do that, the club will almost certainly use an import at the all-important left tackle spot. One possibility could be reacquiring Seth Dittman, who was dealt to Calgary a year ago but, it's believed, is not entrenched in the Stampeders' plans for 2005.

At left guard will be Val St. Germain, whose re-signing was priority No. 1 for Paopao.

STANDING ON GUARD

While George Hudson is a lock at centre, Sutherland would appear to be the easy choice at right guard, although he may wind up at the other tackle spot.

Orleans native Obby Khan will have a good shot at winning a starter's job at camp, either at guard or tackle. Newly acquired Pascal Cheron (from Hamilton) will also figure into the mix as will Samir Chahine, who joined the team late last season, and local product Mike Homewood.

The Renegades also have sights on a couple of young draft picks they expect will make things interesting -- Christian Leibl-Cote, a second-round draft pick last year out of New Hampshire, and Mark Parenteau, a Boston College product picked in the fifth round two years ago.

"Our O-line did not have a stellar year (in 2004)," said Sutherland. "It's not like we can't improve. We knew there were going to be changes. We still have a really good core of guys ... I see no reason why we can't have a better line."

Paopao said he could invite 13 offensive linemen to camp, two more than usual.

"I'd still like to bring in a couple of veteran, seasoned guys who understand the nature of the job," he said. "We're going to make it as competitive as possible."

Meanwhile, England, who led the CFL in sacks two seasons ago, was the co-leader in forced fumbles in 2004, when he missed three games to injury. The 6-foot-3, 270 pounder will turn 34 next month, but remains high on Paopao's list from the 2000 and 2001 seasons, when they were together in B.C. and in San Francisco (XFL), respectively.


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