'Gades Howell-ing with glee

Joe Paopao was choosing his words carefully yesterday as the Ottawa Renegades are on the verge of...

Joe Paopao was choosing his words carefully yesterday as the Ottawa Renegades are on the verge of signing receiver Markus Howell, who had been with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, to a contract. (File Photo)

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:46 AM ET

Joe Paopao refuses to make the same mistake twice when it comes to free-agent wide receivers.

That is, he will not announce the Renegades have landed Markus Howell before he actually has a signed contract in hand.

But unless the 29-year old Winnipeg native does an Ed Hervey-like reverse and reneges on his word, Paopao has beaten out what he figures to be at least three other CFL teams in securing the services of the former Blue Bomber.

"The paperwork is in transit, I think," Paopao carefully confirmed from his home last night.

"We've agreed to terms. I'm pretty confident things will work out."

Unlike the Hervey case, Howell himself is actually on record as saying he's likely headed to the nation's capital.

"If the terms of my contract with Ottawa go through, it's a done deal," he told reporters out west. "It's really not about money because Winnipeg was close, but they are giving me an opportunity."

More precisely, an opportunity to start at the flanker position at the other end of the line from where Jason Armstead will line up. Make no mistake, although he is said to have 4.4 speed, Howell is no Hervey on the field, either.

In five seasons as a Bomber, he was unable to establish himself as a prominent fixture in the attack. His best season was 2002, when he had 38 catches for 415 yards.

In total, he has only caught 104 balls for 1,280 yards during the past half decade, and only two receptions last year, when he was switched to the defensive side of the ball after the Bombers' secondary was ransacked by injury.

Howell even started at cornerback, which suggests there's value in his versatility, but Paopao clearly wants him back on offence.

"He's a pass receiver, by nature," Paopao said of Howell, who has returned kicks and punts for Winnipeg and could see similar special-teams duty here.

"He's a good young player that gives us five Canadian receivers, with Pat Woodcock, David Azzi, Darryl Ray and Aubrey Cummings, who we still have to make a decision on."

Howell, a fourth-round draft choice out of Texas Southern in 2000, said the Renegades' offer intrigued him most of the numerous discussions he has had since becoming a free agent Feb. 16.

"I need a fresh start," said the 5-foot-11, 185-pounder. "There might have been a stigma placed (in Winnipeg) that I wasn't a starter. (The Renegades) want me as a receiver and they said there could be a chance of being on defence but only in an emergency situation.

"It will definitely be a little different to be away from Winnipeg, but change is good. It was a tough decision."


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