The Redblacks have added an infusion of offensive players to their roster. Adding four different wideouts and/or running backs. It’s clear there are concerns about their depth especially after watching DeMontre Tuggle leave, and knowing they have four wide receivers, two running backs, and a fullback set to hit free agency. Injuries to countless players in 2023 could be spurring the early movement, and it’s hard to blame them for loading up in both areas.
How do these guys stack up to what we already have on the roster and how likely are they to make the team?
Ryquell Armstead, Running Back
First let’s look at perhaps the best known name on this list Ryquell Armstead. Armstead was once a 5th round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars who have since cleaned house in the coaching department twice. This turnover among other things didn’t help Armstead’s case.
After spending the first two seasons of his career solidly with the Jacksonville Jaguars, he was released and began the journeyman portion of his NFL days. Over the next calendar year, he would be signed and released by four different NFL teams. By 2022 he was out of the NFL completely, and had not signed another contract with any other league.
In 2023 he drastically changed that approach and applied for the XFL Draft where he was selected by Von Hutchins, Reggie Barlow and the DC Defenders. He would stick with DC until just after their week 8 game when DC opted to release Armstead. He finished his time with DC having collected 64 carries for 218 yards, 4 receptions for 37 yards, and 1 touchdown. After being let go by DC, Armstead sat on the open market for a little while waiting on an opportunity.
Finally on June 30th, just over 2 months later Armstead was signed by Ottawas for the first time. The 5’11 220 lb bruiser didn’t stick for long ultimately released before the regular season ended. However it appears Armstead will get another chance to make the roster. Looking at who is still there, and the current free agents who have yet to re-sign, this move makes sense.
Right now Ante Milanovic-Litre is still a pending free agent as is the starting running back Devonte Williams, and fullback Anthony Gosselin. Signing Armstead and Hoosman gives Ottawa immediate depth for camp and ensures if they lose either of the main contributors from 2023 they have options in place. To be clear though, I don’t expect both of these backs to make the opening day active roster unless there are injuries in camp. I see Armstead, and Hoosman as direct competition for one another and expect that Hoosman would have the edge unless, Armstead sets himself apart.
Tyler Hoosman, Running Back
Hoosman is a 5’11 215 pound back from North Dakota. At just 24 years old he isn’t nearly as seasoned as Armstead, but what Armstead lacks is long term upside at this point due to age, and with Hoosman that isn’t an issue.
With Hoosman you are betting on his upside because of his limited work load at times in college. Hoosman was primarily playing second fiddle before arriving at North Dakota where he became a focal point of their offense. Producing 176 carries for 1,023 yards, and 12 rushing touchdowns, adding 22 receptions for 125 yards. He averaged well over 5 yards per touch, showing some value in the passing game as well; a must have moving forward for Ottawa.
Ironically before his time at NDU, it took him 34 games at UNI to produce nearly identical numbers; 255 carries for 1,034 yards and 12 touchdowns, with 10 receptions for 89 yards. After college he was signed as a UDFA by the Chargers but ended up released in final cuts. He waited out the NFL season hoping for a shot but ultimately had to look north for his next chance to play. The question for Ottawa with Hoosman is he a one-hit wonder or a future star waiting to break out?
With his combination of size, speed, and youth I would expect him to make it very tough for Armstead to make this team unless they opt to let Hoosman begin on the practice squad to learn the CFL style. At 6’0 215 pounds with 4.52 speed he will find a home even if it isn’t in Ottawa. There’s a reason the NFL showed interest.
KeSean Carter, Wide Receiver
Carter started his college career at Texas Tech in 2018 the final year of Kliff Kingsbury’s time at the program. He spent two more seasons there before moving on to Houston after the 2020 season. During his time at Tech he played in 26 games, and caught 83 passes for 831 yards and 7 touchdowns. He also ran 5 times for 44 yards. While seeing 13 kick returns for 267 yards.
Moving on to Houston to play under recently fired Dana Holgerson. As a 5th year senior, Carter also set career highs in receptions, yards and touchdowns with 38 for 601 yards and 5 touchdowns. He would graduate from Houston having played in 48 games.
During these 48 games 147 receptions for 1,763 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also had 5 Carries for 44 yards and 13 kick returns for 267 yards. After college at his pro-day he put up a 4.5, with a 1.57 10 yard split. Standing 5’9 176 pounds he managed just 5 reps in the bench but also had a 34.5 inch vertical. Carter also ran track at a very high level in college producing a personal best in the 60, 100 and 200 meter dashes of: 6.71, 10.73, and 21.33. Although I will say he was once clocked as fast as 10.22 when he won the 6A State Championship by nearly 2 tenths of a second.
After falling un-drafted he was invited to the Bears minicamp for a try-out but ultimately wasn’t signed. This isn’t Carter’s first stint in Ottawa having been signed in Early October as well. He now has a chance of making a mark in the CFL. He could see an opportunity to make the roster playing special teams and work his way into the offense as things go in 2024.
Jon’Vea Johnson, Wide Receiver
It appears the Redblacks wanted to bring in similar players, of varying levels of professional experience to compete for roster spots in 2024. Johnson is a veteran receiver who will be 28 by the time the season starts. He and Carter provide a similar skill set to the offense.
Johnson was a solid contributor through out his college career but never the number one option. At 6’0 190 pounds it was his ability after the catch that made him special. He went un-drafted only to sign with the Dallas Cowboys to begin his career spending parts of two seasons there. In 2021 Dallas moved in another direction and Johnson would split time between the Jaguars and Bears.
By 2022 it was off to the CFL for the first time. Originally signing with Montreal. He would end up spending the year on the Alouettes practice squad before being let go once again. This led him to the Memphis Showboats of the USFL to begin the year in 2023. He would be released in final cuts, and ultimately head back to the CFL. Less than a month after Memphis let him go, the Ti-Cats came calling and brought him in to compete for a roster spot. He was released in early June and brought back briefly on the practice squad.
He would sign with Ottawa’s practice squad for the first time in September of 2023. He will return in an attempt to make the active roster for 2024. Johnson has to be the only player I’ve ever seen make it to year five playing in three different leagues, on seven different teams without seeing the field in the regular season.
What are the Odds?
What are the odds these guys make the active roster in 2024? The truth is, its very early to project anyone’s chances at making the roster. The thing we can take from these signings is which players the team are anticipated potentially losing at each of these position groups. For example, we see Armstead and Hoosman signed in the backfield, and both are larger backs and potential one for one replacements for Ante Milanovic-Litre.
At wide receiver you see two smaller, quick twitch guys known for their abilities after the catch, and you have to wonder if they are preparing for the possibility that they may potentially lose Justin Hardy. Hardy was one of those high volume short to intermediate route runners that Ottawa leaned on to create yards after the catch. Obviously if you’re Ottawa, you have to try and bring Hardy back, but preparing for the chance that he chooses to leave isn’t the worst strategy in the world.
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