'Gades catch up to Howell

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

In the Markus Howell sweepstakes, the Renegades beat out Winnipeg, Calgary, Hamilton and Saskatchewan.

Why did the veteran of five CFL season's choose Ottawa's offer, assuming all were basically in the same ballpark?

"The opportunity, man," Howell, a 5-foot-11, 185-pounder who will be 30 when camp begins, said yesterday from his home town of Winnipeg. "And being able to play with a dynamic quarterback like Kerry Joseph. If we can keep him healthy, this team will be dynamite on offence."

Whether they can keep the dogs off Joseph in 2005 will go a long way in determining the Renegades' fate, as the offensive line remains the biggest question mark thus far into the off-season.

The signing of Howell could prove to be a highlight of the winter, in retrospect.

Once timed at running 40 yards in 4.3 seconds in college, Howell has slowed down to a 4.4 guy -- which makes him as fast as Jason Armstead or anybody else on the Renegades.

"He has a lot of upside," GM and coach Joe Paopao said yesterday. "He has a tremendous amount of talent and speed, but he hasn't really had the opportunity to develop his potential.

"He has that extra gear, and hopefully he can generate some productive yardage for us, to utilize his ability and run away from people."

Howell, who will likely figure into the Renegades' punt and/or kick return plans, played in the Bombers secondary last season when the team ran into injuries. He'll provide similar, emergency insurance for Ottawa, but he was signed as a wide receiver.

While he "got lost in the shuffle" of Canadian receivers that included Kamau Peterson and Jamie Stoddard in Winnipeg, Howell is now in a Renegade stable that has Pat Woodcock, David Azzi and Darryl Ray. His 104 career pass receptions is most of those in that group, and last year he only caught two balls while spending most of the season on defence.


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