Ranek, Renegades split

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

Josh Ranek has played his last game for the Renegades.

Barring a dramatic turnaround no one can imagine, the 27-year-old tailback's association with the team will officially come to an end Feb. 15 when he enters the free-agent market.

From there, the speculation is he'll follow in the footsteps of his former Ottawa coaches -- Joe Paopao and Kani Kauahi -- and sign with Hamilton, the only CFL team without a proven running back.

A 5-foot-8, 205-lb. pitbull from Tyndall, S.D., Ranek has been a fan favourite at Frank Clair Stadium since the franchise's inaugural season. Negotiations on a new contract broke off suddenly late last week, with Ranek and his agent Gil Scott looking for a salary in the $155-175,000 range and the Renegades offering $135,000.

Ranek made around $100,000 last season.

'BEST OFFER'

"We wanted to re-sign Josh, we made what we considered to be our best offer," Renegades GM Forrest Gregg told the Sun last night. "Josh turned it down, so we've taken it off the table."

Ottawa has also seen the last of classy receiver Yo Murphy. The 34-year-old veteran was seeking $120,000, but the Renegades offered only half that amount.

Meanwhile, it's believed the team is making progress in negotiations with all-star defensive back Korey Banks and that import Sean Bennett is nearing a long-term agreement. Bennett, a former New York Giant who has spent the last two seasons mostly as a backup with the Renegades, could challenge for Ranek's old job.

Should a team other than Hamilton sign Ranek, Ottawa would likely pick up its current starter. If a John Avery, Troy Davis, Charles Roberts or Kenton Keith isn't available, the Renegades will take their chances on the best of a group scouted by Gregg and coach John Jenkins.

Earlier yesterday, Ranek said he planned to test the free-agent waters, but that "coming back to Ottawa is never out of the question."

However, Gregg later made it clear he is now going in a different direction.

"We thought we were fair, we thought we had gone where we could (in negotiations) with Josh, but now we won't go there again," said Gregg, who acknowledged the Renegades only offered Ranek what they did because he was such a popular player here.

"As long as we know we have a player we have to replace, we can get busy signing some people. We have to get on with our business and Josh has to go on with his. I wish Josh nothing but the best wherever he goes."


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