The Ottawa Redblacks have continued to make moves as of late. Most recently we have seen them resign Gary Johnson, and release Jacob Ruby. Let’s take a look into each move and see exactly what value it brings to the team for 2024.
Coach Dyce continues to solidify his special teams unit by bringing back key members of his former unit. Gary Johnson is one of those players, appearing in just 8 games last year Johnson produced 8 special teams tackles and 1 forced fumble.
This brings Johnson to 24 career tackles on special teams to just 9 on defense in 22 appearances. Johnson is 31 years old and nearing the back half of his career but at this point he is one of the most reliable special teams performers the Redblacks have, who adds quality depth on defense as well.
Johnson joined the Redblacks before the 2023 season, his fourth in the CFL, after three years with Saskatchewan. The veteran linebacker should be considered one of the top options to start in the event of an injury to the starter.
Frankie Griffin Returns
Frankie Griffin is 28 years old heading into 2024 coming off of a break out season. After initially cutting his teeth playing special teams for Ottawa back in 2021, he has worked his way up the depth chart slowly but surely into a starting role last year.
Griffin would play in 14 games, collecting 79 tackles, and his first career interception against Hamilton. He had 5 or more tackles in 8 games last season including 2 with 10 or more tackles. Griffin should be in line to compete for a starting job in 2024.
Jacob Ruby will also be 31 in 2024. He was released after appearing in all 36 games over the past two seasons. He was however one of the lowest graded players on the Redblacks offensive line at several points last season.
According to Pff.com the Redblacks were often ranked 6th or worse in their weekly offensive line rankings. Ruby saw his grade fall as low as the 30’s in the pass blocking department. Given that Ottawa’s offense featured an anemic pass game the last several years this performance couldn’t be tolerated anymore.
The Redblacks announced just hours after releasing Ruby they had signed Dariusz Bladek another National on the offensive line. A Bethune Cookman alum, he went un-drafted in the 2016 NFL Draft. Upon a conversation with Calgary he discovered he qualified for National Status due to his mother’s heritage. This allowed him to apply for the CFL Draft as well.
Due to a passport issue he wasn’t able to apply for the 2016 draft, but he was a second round draft pick in 2017. He immediately joined the Saskatchewan Roughriders that season and got to work. The 6’4 300 pound lineman then spent the next three seasons with Saskatchewan. In 2020 he signed with Toronto before the season was cancelled. He would opt to remain with Toronto long term.
He spent three seasons with Toronto capping it with a Grey Cup victory in 2022. Early in 2023 he suffered an ankle injury that caused him to miss the first chunk of the season. He would remain a healthy scratch on the Argos, ultimately missing the entire season. The Argos knew he was an impending free agent in 2024, and decided to move on releasing him in January. Less than two weeks later he was signed by Ottawa in an effort to replace Jacob Ruby.
These moves all make sense for where Ottawa stands currently. Bringing back linebacker depth that can contribute on special teams was important. Improving the offensive line was also important and they already managed to make two moves that should result in a dramatic swing in performance up front in 2024.
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