MORE CONCERNED with taking care of their own business this off-season, the Renegades never did figure on being among the shoppers when the CFL free agency period officially begins at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.
But then the list of players for sale shouldn't exactly spark a Midnight Madness rush, either.
The most attractive jewel on the shelves will be B.C. Lions import middle linebacker Barrin Simpson, who is expected to garner the interest of six clubs.
Also fielding calls will be Edmonton Eskimos import wide receiver Jason Tucker, who will probably be the second most appealing offensive player on the market.
The first should be Renegades centre George Hudson, who has balked at a lucrative multi-year offer from Ottawa that would not only make him the highest paid offensive lineman in the CFL, but also very likely the highest paid non-quarterback in the league.
That he hasn't signed it in the last two months indicates Hudson is headed out of Dodge. While there are at least three other teams interested in him, his most likely destination is believed to be Hamilton.
Also expected to make the move from the capital to Steeltown is running back Josh Ranek.
"We probably had more free agents than any other team in the league, an enormous amount," said Renegades GM Forrest Gregg, who has re-signed a group of seven that includes DBs Korey Banks, Da'Shann Austin, Donnavan Carter and Bo Rogers, linebackers Kyries Hebert and Jason Kralt, and punter Pat Fleming.
"A lot of contracts before we arrived were signed one and one (a year plus an option) and that keeps you hopping all the time. We're not doing that anymore, we're trying to sign our players to longer term deals, and because of that we don't figure to be active on the free-agent market.
"That's not to say if somebody comes along that interests us we won't go in that direction. But our plan is to not."
With the expected loss of Hudson, the Renegades have signed veteran lineman Chris Burns, who has already had two tours of duty in Ottawa. Burns, who was not re-signed by the Joe Paopao-regime, did not play last year.
Gregg also remains hopeful of re-signing Pascal Cheron, the team's starting right guard in 2005.
"He has an interest in coming back and we have an interest in him," said Gregg. "If we don't get him, that's the way it goes."
Veteran Mike Sutherland is expected to replace Hudson at centre, while Obby Khan is considered ready for prime time and could step in at Cheron's post.
Meanwhile, the Renegades may still offer contracts to DT Jerome Haywood and DB Quincy Coleman, but will first wait for an opinion on the two players from Rod Rust -- who will be announced as the team's new defensive co-ordinator later this month -- and his assistants.
Curiously, Ottawa is not expected to seriously participate in the Simpson sweepstakes, despite the fact they were sorely in need of a middle linebacker when Keaton Cromartie went down early last season.
"I think a lot of people are after him," Gregg said of Simpson, who like Tucker will command a salary of between $150,000-$200,000. "We're not going to be really active in that direction. He's a good football player and I'm not saying we'll get out altogether, but if you don't really compete for him you're not going to get him."
The Renegades have held tryout camps throughout the off-season and will bring in their own middle linebackers, as well as candidates who will compete to succeed Ranek.
"I think we have a good return guy, you could always use another, but we have signed a couple of guys we haven't announced yet that could fit that bill," Gregg said when asked if he had any interest in Keith Stokes, the sensational return specialist and second-down receiver of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
"There are a few guys out there, but I don't think this is a huge (free-agent) year. Everyone has their own philosophy and we wanted to get our guys signed, we wanted to build a team so we don't have the big turnover every year."