Two times every year we get to catch a glimpse of the CFL negotiation list from each team. Thanks to a new rule instituted in 2018, every team is required to give us at least 10 names twice a year. With the September deadline passing recently let’s take a look at the names released and what they may tell us about the positions viewed as a position to upgrade by the Redblacks.
Much like the CFL draft it is high unlikely all ten of these names sign with the team. This is closer to a calculated gamble based on where players are currently at in their career, than it is a set in stone list of future additions. Sometimes this amounts to a game of connecting the dots in an effort to figure out how realistic it is that we see these men signed. With the USFL, and XFL now in the mix as well as several of these players might be snatched up before the CFL season ends.
Quarterbacks Dominate this List
With five of these players playing quarterback it would appear on the surface that Ottawa believes their quarterback room needs an upgrade. Some have recently been on NFL rosters including Tim Demorat and Tanner Morgan while others; Ben Bryant, Jayden Daniels, are still in college. Only Matthew McKay is the exception.
Let’s start with McKay who might be the most likely name on this list to sign. McKay graduated from Elon University after spending time at NC State, and Montana State. A sixth year senior by the time he hit Elon, he will turn 24 next month.
At his 2023 pro day at NC State, he measured 6’3 217 pounds, with 9 3/8 inch hands. He ran a 4.9 40-yard dash, and a 7.26 3-cone drill, showing he is not the most athletic quarterback around. That isn’t to say he isn’t a willing and able runner. This is a guy who ran the ball 236 times in college for 873 yards and 10 touchdowns. He just isn’t the game breaker that a guy like Dustin Crum has been as a runner at times.
As far as his passing ability he is a career 61% passer who has a history of protecting the ball and rarely throwing in the interceptions. In 725 attempts he has thrown just 8 interceptions. Meanwhile, he threw five times as many touchdowns graduating with 41 to his name. He has the look of a capable quarterback who won’t put your team in a bad position often.
After watching Dustin Crum struggle to score through the air, and turn the ball over more than he had thrown touchdown password es can understand why they would see value in a quarterback like Mckay. McKay saw some NFL interest but was not offered a contract for the 2023 season after attending rookie minicamp with the Dallas Cowboys. Should he choose the XFL, he would stay in Texas with San Antonio who has claimed his rights.
Sticking with the NFC East
Washington was the first team to sign Tim Demorat to a professional contract. He spent about two months with the Commanders before being released. Since then he has been a free agent.
He would go on to work out with Houston in early August but was never signed. The Jets showed interest at one point, perhaps with injuries they revisit this interest? If not, the former Fordham star could find a place to play north of the border with Ottawa. Currently the Redblacks have six quarterbacks total although two will not return this season due to injury.
With Jake Duniway on the practice squad already the Redblacks don’t NEED another quarterback but turning over many stones in the search of a franchise quarterbacks makes a lot of sense. Demorat is 6’4 220 pounds, ideal size for a quarterback, he also comes with an impressive resume. Featuring 123 touchdowns to 39 interceptions. Starting games over five seasons for Fordham he racked up over 13,000 career passing yards, and added 17 rushing touchdowns. He could be a solid option as a short yardage runner for Ottawa as well.
Morgan is considered shorter than your average NFL QB at only 6’0 and weighs 200 pounds. He was also regarded as having small hands measuring 9.5 inches. That and the fact that he attended Minnesota led to him falling unselected in the NFL draft.
While at Minnesota Morgan appeared in 48 games with 45 starts after redshirting in 2017. He collected a 31-14 record, while completing 62% of his 1,027 passing attempts. He managed 63 touchdowns, and 32 interceptions. However he managed over 10 passing touchdowns just once in five years as a starter. That includes one season in which he started 13 games and only had 10 touchdown passes. He managed 8 rushing touchdowns as well.
At the Pro-Day for Minnesota Morgan didn’t set himself apart as an athlete at all. Morgan did get selected by the Michigan Panthers of the USFL. He ultimately chose not to join the Panthers right away. Morgan then spent this offseason with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Morgan would appear in all there preseason games for them but ultimately grade out poorly. He completed 6 of 12 attempts for 32 yards 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Pittsburgh called 4 designed runs and he collected -3 yards.
Pittsburgh ultimately opted to release him in late August. So far he remains on the market. Could he opt to sign a contract with the CFL after passing on the USFL early Or does he simply head to the Panthers in 2024?
Jayden Daniels, Louisiana
With this selection Ottawa is getting ahead of the game for 2024. Daniels is currently still in college with LSU. Originally attending Arizona State, he transferred to the LSU for the 2022 season.
In his college career so far he has managed to flash the ability to be a professional quarterback. In 29 starts at ASU, he threw 32 touchdowns, but also had 13 interceptions. In 2021 he had a 1:1 touchdown to interception ratio. What makes Daniels special is his rushing ability. With ASU he had 296 carries for 1,288 yards and 13 touchdowns.
In 2022 upon landing with LSU he immediately won the starting job and managed to have his best single season as a runner. He had 186 carries for 885 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also had a career high in completion rate (68.6%), matched a career high for passing touchdowns, and fell just 30 yards shy of his most passing yards. He only threw 3 interceptions on the year.
He decided to return for 2023 to exhaust his eligibility. He returned to his starting role after a 10-4 record in 2022. Daniels started the season 0-1, but in his second game he had possibly his best performance ever. Finishing 30 of 34 for 361 yards 2 touchdowns and 0 ints, he added 64 yards rushing and another 2 touchdowns on his way to a 27 point blow out over Mississippi State.
As of right now in 3 games Daniels is on pace for the best completion rate of his career as he currently sits at 73.7 a full 5.1% over his previous career high. He has 977 yards, 8 touchdowns, and only 1 interception. He has added 157 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns leading the team in every major rushing category as well. PFF.com has him rated at a 88.1 the highest overall grade of his career, while as a runner he is rated 69.6. His passing grade is currently smashing his second best number by 7.5 points. Daniels might play his way right out of CFL consideration into an NFL Draft pick.
Ben Bryant, Northwestern
Bryant is another current college player. Named the starter for the Northwestern Wildcats for the 2023 season, so far Bryant’s performance hasn’t been pretty. In three games he has completed just over 55% of his passes, while throwing 2 touchdowns to 3 interceptions.
Bryant has had a bizarre college career so far. He originally committed to play for Cincinnati where he stayed for three seasons as the back-up until 2021 he transferred to Eastern Michigan where he became their starting quarterback. He played okay completing 68% of his passes for 3,121 yards. However in 13 games he threw just 14 touchdowns to 7 interceptions. He then entered the transfer portal for the second time, only to return to Cincinnati once again this time as the starter, and a graduate transfer.
He would have a better season in 2022 than he did in 2021 with EMU. This time he threw 21 touchdowns to 7 interceptions, and collected 2,731 yards while throwing 60 less passes. Bryant is certainly more of a pocket passer than most of these other quarterbacks on this list and didn’t seem to find the endzone as much on the ground, something the Redblacks value in their quarterbacks. He has just 5 career rushing touchdowns in 43 games.
I don’t expect Bryant to see heavy NFL interest given where and how his career has progressed. He could be a very realistic candidate to join the CFL early on in his professional career.
Kylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State
Kylin Hill spent his college career tearing up SEC defenses for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Hill is a 5’10 214 pound back that has 4.57 speed, and impressive strength (22 reps in the bench press). During his college career he had to fight for carries with other backs and began his time at the school in a running back by committee.
As a freshman he split carries with Aeros Williams, Keytaon Thompson, and Nick Gibson. Hill finished third with 78 carries, fourth with 393 yards, and 2 touchdowns. With so much depth and a run-first ask questions later quarterback in Nick Fitzgerald it’s amazing there were even the almost 200 carries left for Thompson, Hill, and Gibson. In his second season he was given a larger role.
He would take 117 carries averaging over 6 yards per carry for 734 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns. He added 22 receptions for 176 yards and 4 more touchdowns. He showed the ability to be a three down back which I believe led directly to his starting role in his junior and senior seasons.
As a junior he managed a career year as he racked up 242 carries for 1,350 yards and 10 touchdowns adding 18 receptions for 180 yards and 1 touchdown. This season amounted to his best year of college. Playing as a senior during the COVID 19 shortened 2020 season he only appeared in 3 games. It seemed that MSU was doing their best to get him more involved as a receiver.
He caught more passes in 3 games than he had in any single season up to this point. He would collect 23 receptions for 237 yards and 1 touchdown, however only 15 carries for 58 yards. While it wasn’t a good thing to miss a large portion of the season, this three game stretch likely was directly related to seeing him get drafted in round 7 by the Packers. Green Bay prefers backs who can add value as a receiver.
In the NFL Hill lasted up until late in the 2022 season before being released by the Packers. During his rookie season he played on 13 snaps. He would collect 10 carries for 24 yards, and 2 targets catching 1 pass for 5 yards. After an injury early in 2022 he landed on PUP list to begin the year. Activated on 11/02/22 he lasted just over 2 weeks before being released. During 2022 he played just 1 snap resulting in 1 carry for 7 yards. Hill has since worked out with Cleveland in August of this year but given that he was not signed this is a calculated gamble that could pay dividends.
David Perales, DL, Fresno State
Perales is a 6 foot three 255 pound pass rusher originally from Merced College. He later attended Sacramento State before transferring to Fresno State in 2020 before falling undrafted in the 2022 NFL draft. During college Perales displayed versatility to play defensive end or outside linebacker. Which helped him earn his first professional opportunity.
Perales produced at every level he played. As a true freshman he managed 14 sacks before moving on to Sacramento State. With Sac State he added 2.5 sacks with ten starts. He then left for Fresno State where his college career took off.
Over the next three seasons with Fresno, Perales collected 22.5 sacks, 38 tackles for a loss, 9 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries, 6 pass deflections, and 1 interception. Part of what hurt Perales is his pro day numbers that saw him run a 5.08 at 248 pounds due to an ankle injury that prevented him from finishing the pro day. He did participate in the bench press putting up 22 reps. The Steelers have often turned to players who showed up with on field production and not proday numbers.
This led them to take a chance on bringing Perales in. During training camp and the preseason by all reports he impressed the coaches. Playing in three games he had 4 tackles. Ultimately this was enough to earn him a practice squad spot where he still stands. IF he ever is released the Redblacks will likely put on the full court press to get him in Ottawa to pair with 2022 DPOY Lorenzo Mauldin. He would fit the CFL gameplay well as a full time defensive end.
A Trio of Wide Receivers
The Redblacks also claimed the exclusive rights to three wide receivers to potentially add even more depth at the position in 2024 and beyond.
Mac Hippenhammer, Miami(Ohio)
Hippenhammer is built like a running back at 5’11 190 pounds, and comes with the ability to return punts too. He got off to a slow start with Penn State before transferring to Miami of Ohio for the 2020 season after three seasons.
During his first three seasons at Penn State he was not utilized often on offense. He would redshirt as a freshman trying to learn the offense and develop further before stepping on the field. In his second year with the team he saw the field for the first time and logged his first start early in the season. He would go on to play in 20 games for Penn State collecting 7 receptions for 188 yards and 1 touchdown. He added 2 punt returns for 13 yards, and 1 tackle.
Moving on to a fresh start he was immediately involved in the offense more. In 2020 due to Covid 19 he played just one game catching 5 passes for 77 yards, foreshadowing what his career would become. Over the next two seasons his career took a massive turn. After 12 receptions for 260 yards and 1 touchdown in his first 21 games, he would manage 53 receptions for 863 yards and 5 touchdowns in his first 14 games with Miami of Ohio.
He would play in 26 games and finish his career with Miami of Ohio with 107 receptions for 1,632 yards, and 14 touchdowns. This got him some attention, but he still needed a strong pro-day to get himself draft day consideration after how slowly his career got to its fever pitch. While he put up solid numbers, nothing about his performance, or size really sets him apart from a crowd of wide receivers.
His 4.58 40-yard dash is likely w step slow for a 190 pound wideout. His 1.66 10-yard split didn’t do him any favors. He close not to do the bench press, and his vertical was a 32.5 inch leap. His 3-cone drill was equally average at 7.09.
Immediately Following the draft the Cincinnati Bengals brought him in for training camp.
The Bengals would release Hippenhammer before he appeared in a preseason game and ultimately he wasn’t signed by another team since. I personally think he would do himself a lot of good by going to the CFL where the high motion can cater to his weaknesses. He also can remind teams he is able to help on special teams and in the run game. If I’m Ottawa I’m trying to get him on the practice squad sooner rather than later.
Kalil Pimpleton, Central Michigan
Pimpleton is another player with upside in the return game who could have immediate value as he learns the CFL style of play. At 5’9 172 pounds he is likely looking at special teams as his best way to make any roster, however he has all the talent and ability to be a great wide receiver at the professional level.
Pimpleton in one game with Virginia Tech ran one time for four yards. He would transfer to Central Michigan where he affected the team in several ways including as a passer. In three seasons he threw 11 passes completing 6 for 126 yards and 1 touchdown. He also ran the ball 40 times for 303 yards and 5 touchdowns, catching 170 passes for 2,132 yards, and 12 touchdowns.
He also managed 48 punt returns for 568 yards and 2 touchdowns, as well as 2 kick returns for 26 yards, adding 3 tackles. His ability to affect all phases of the game makes him incredibly valuable and possibly more so to the CFL than the NFL. In the CFL teams often incorporate a specific player to run quarterback sneaks in short yardage situations. While Pimpleton isn’t your typical body type found in that role, his ability to throw the ball, and run with great efficiency should be enough to find him some snaps in gadget plays if not a full time role as the short yardage QB.
The 2021 First Team All MAC Receiver and Special Teams Player of the Year, Pimpleton would fall undrafted even after running a 4.49 40-yard dash, and a 1.52 10-yard split. He put up 14 reps in the bench press, as well as a 33.5 inch vertical and a 6.93 3 cone drill. This helped him earn a job with the Detroit Lions, staying in Michigan.
In three preseason games Pimpleton caught 9 passes for 69 yards. Ultimately Detroit let him go in final cuts. Just days later he was signed by the Giants practice squad. He finished out the season there before signing a futures deal for 2023. He would end up released in final cuts again but this time he was not given a chance to play in the preseason. He could end up getting looks for a practice squad BUT playing a full CFL season could benefit his career long term. Especially on a team with a former Special Teams Coordinator as the Head Coach.
Garrett Maag, North Dakota
Maag is the one larger bodied receiver on this list. At 6’4 210 pounds he is a possession style receiver not known for putting up huge numbers per catch, but he’s known for being sure handed and consistent. He scored 18 touchdowns in 49 games with North Dakota State in five years.
He had a career year in only his second season when he put up 59 receptions for 610 yards and 5 touchdowns. However his most explosive year was his junior year in 2020 when he played 7 games. He caught 25 passes for 523 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Averaging over 20 yards per reception, the only time he managed over 13.3 per reception.
Maag managed impressive numbers that I believe caught some teams off guard at his pro day. Not known for being a faster receiver for his size he ran a 4.50 and a 1.60 yard split. Most impressive was his 6.9 3-cone drill, and a 40.5 inch vertical. Displaying agility, and explosiveness while showing he could be your ideal jump ball specialist, making him valuable near the endzone.
A Minnesota native, Maag was signed by the Vikings as an undrafted free agent. However he was let go before he played in any preseason games. Maag is an intriguing player that could have immediate value to any team he is on even if it’s strictly based on his ability to come down with jump balls in the endzone.
How Likely is it for Ottawa to Sign Any of These Players?
Now does this mean that it’s in the CFL? It’s hard to say given that the Redblacks have more competition than ever for players from leagues like the USFL, XFL, and the expanded NFL practice squads. Just five years ago the player pool was much easier for CFL teams to navigate without these three factors.
Of this group, I believe Ottawa did a great job of picking players, that may not get a look in the NFL again after their first rookie mini-camp stint. Tim DeMorat, and Matthew McKay strike me as the most likely quarterbacks to consider this as a legitimate option for their future. Kylin Hill I have a feeling will receive interest from XFL, and USFL teams potentially choosing to stay in the states early on, he could be a name to watch for double-dipping by playing in one of those leagues and then signing with the CFL, if the NFL doesn’t call.
Perales is not likely to end up in the CFL at all, the Steelers liked him enough to keep him on the practice squad, and they are a team that likes to develop players over the long term. I expect Perales to stay with Pittsburgh into the 2024 season at a minimum. Garrett Maag seems like a likely candidate given his proximity to the Canadian border, and his status as a free agent currently. I don’t know that he has enough attention to see more NFL looks this season.
Mac Hippenhammer and Kalil Pimpleton strike me as future XFL/USFL players, perhaps they look to double dip as well? The ability for players to play in two of these leagues make take a large toll on their bodies, but they also can make significantly more money by playing through the XFL season primarily in the CFL off-season, only to join a CFL team and earn more afterward.
Ultimately I expect to see no more than 3-5 names on this list signed at any point. I only see a couple players on this list as names that would consider this move right away as well. This practice for the CFL has become quite difficult to navigate with the increase in options in the United States. Often times players would rather wait out an NFL opportunity than come to the CFL, and now we are getting that same effect for players waiting out XFL, or USFL deals instead of pursuing the CFL right away. Hopefully Ottawa can figure out a way to incentivize players to come within the scope of the rules.
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