'Gades about to have a Gass?

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

A major overhaul to the Renegades' defence is giving the unit a definite western look.

As the club was announcing it had inked import defensive backs Derrick "Bo" Lewis and George McCullough to contracts yesterday, word circulated that import linebacker Kai Ellis has also agreed to a new deal that brings him back to Ottawa for a second season.

Ellis, a still-maturing, physically gifted 24-year-old who was hampered by injuries in 2005, had been working out for various NFL teams.

Meanwhile, the Sun has learned the Renegades are close to signing free-agent import defensive lineman Rahim Abdullah, who spent the past three seasons with the Eskimos. Sources also indicated Ottawa and Edmonton are involved in trade talks that could bring seven-year veteran import middle linebacker A.J. Gass to the nation's capital. The Renegades, who are trying to pry away one of the Eskimos' four fullbacks as well, would return the first-round pick (fifth overall) they received from Edmonton last season for Clinton Wayne.

Abdullah and Gass, who would be following defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall from Edmonton to Ottawa, are both known for playing with an "edge." Abdullah, who has 13 sacks the past two seasons, even received votes as the league's dirtiest player in a Sun poll leading into last year's Grey Cup game.

Should the Renegades acquire Gass, they'd likely not bring Reggie Givens back.

Lewis becomes the fifth former B.C. Lion to sign a pact, counting defensive line coach Richard Harris, with GM and coach Joe Paopao since January. The Renegades have also added Ottawa-born defensive linemen Cameron Legault and Marc Pilon, plus import Ray Jacobs.

'CREDIBLE PLAYERS'

"They are extremely credible players," Paopao said of Lewis and McCullough, a former NFLer who has been a Renegade since Day 1. "If we had to play football tomorrow, we have some guys (in the secondary) who can play."

At the top of that list is Crance Clemons, who was regarded as one of the CFL's top cornerbacks before spending last season with the Indianapolis Colts. Also in the mix will be imports Bo Rogers and safety Kyries Hebert, plus Canadians Donnie Ruiz, Dave Donaldson, Greg Bearman and Hassan Probherbs.

Safety Shawn Gallant, who has had two knee operations, will not be back, as he has agreed to a deal with the Blue Bombers.

"It doesn't stop here," said Paopao, who currently has assistant coaches Tommy Condell, Jaime Hill and Jim Clark, plus player personnel director Chris McRobbie scouting NFL Europe players in Tampa. "We will continue to look for other players who will upgrade us in the defensive backfield."

Lewis, who is expected to line up in the strong-side defensive halfback spot left vacant by Anthony Malbrough's departure for Calgary, is a CFL rarity in that he (like Gass) has spent the past seven seasons with one team.

Last year, however, is one he's glad to put behind him. Lewis was moved to safety at training camp, but when the Lions ran into injuries on offence they needed to meet ratio requirements by replacing him with a Canadian. In January, the Lions declined the option on his contract.

Lewis proclaimed to be "like a little boy in a candy store," by joining the Renegades.

"When (the Lions) won the Cup in 2000, Joe was our O.C. (offensive co-ordinator) ... he's pretty much a player's coach, I don't see why players wouldn't want to play hard for him," Lewis, 30, said from his home in Jackson, Miss. "(As GM), he's going to bring in players to get the job done and I want to be part of it.

"I'm looking forward to coming in wherever they want to use me. I'm just happy to get a fresh start."


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