With draft boost, Ottawa's CFL team has high hopes

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:43 PM ET

In Jeff Hunt’s thesaurus, the word competitive also means playoffs.

And with details of the CFL’s next expansion draft being settled upon and revealed Wednesday, Hunt believes Ottawa’s next pro football team is going to be competitive right from the get-go.

“I think we’ve got the framework in place to be very successful on the field in Year 1, Year 2, Year 3 ...but in particular, Year 1,” said Hunt, the frontman for the ownership consortium (Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group) aiming to have a CFL team that represents the nation’s capital on the field in 2013. “There are still so many variables, but I think we’ll be in position to take a run at the playoffs.”

Making Ottawa instantly competitive, Hunt says, will be a draft that allows the team to select two quarterbacks, eight imports and 16 non-imports from existing clubs.

Key is the access to a quality group of quarterbacks, something the Renegades did not enjoy in the expansion draft leading to their 2002 entry into the league

At that time, teams were each permitted to protect two quarterbacks, essentially leaving the Renegades with their choice of the top third-stringers in the league. Under the new agreement, teams can only protect one quarterback.

The lack of a quality signal caller was the single biggest factor in the Renegades finishing their inaugural season in last place with a 4-14 record.

“The last time, I don’t think (the Renegades) had a quarterback who took a snap the previous year,” said Hunt. “This time, we’re going to have two guys who did.

“I think teams are going to have a decision to make. Do they protect their older, veteran quarterback? Their right-now guy? Or do they protect their future guy?

“If the planets line up, not only are we going to have two quarterbacks who took snaps the previous year, but likely one of them will be a veteran.”

Clubs will be allowed to protect 10 additional imports in the import draft.

In the non-import draft, teams will be able to protect six players. In 2002, they were able to protect seven non-imports.

A team losing a quarterback in the import draft will be able to protect two additional players in Round 1 of the non-import draft. If it loses a kicker or punter in the import draft, it can protect one additional player in the first round of the non-import draft.

“That’s a slight improvement (from 2002) in the first round, a slight improvement in the second,” said Hunt.

Also agreed to is that Ottawa will get the first pick in each round of the CFL Canadian college draft, that Ottawa will be allowed to draft Canadian NCAA players a year before they come out, and that Ottawa will be able to start creating a negotiation list up to two years before it begins play. 

The Renegades only had a couple of months to build a neg list.

“That’s a huge advantage,” said Hunt.

Despite reaching an agreement with the city on plans for the necessary revitalization of Lansdowne, OSEG still has obstacles to overcome — such OMB hearings and a legal challenge — before the light signalling the return of football to Ottawa is completely green.

“I’ve always said, when you see the tractors and dump trucks on site, then you’ll know the situation is in hand,” said Hunt. “I remain optimistic this thing is going to move forward and we’ll be playing football in 2013.”


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