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Redblacks Continue to Overhaul the Roster, Bring Back Dominique Rhymes, Bruce Carter, Lorenzo Mauldin IV

The Redblacks have made a flurry of moves over the past week locking up key members of the 2023 roster while adding free agents from many sources. They have also finally started signing players left available by the UFL Dispersal Draft held just weeks ago.

Dominique Rhymes once launched his CFL career in Ottawa back in 2017. He went on to spend three years with the franchise before moving on to the BC Lions before the Covid 19 shut down in 2020. After three seasons and four years Rhymes returns to where it all began. 

Rhymes Broke Through Despite Quiet College Career

Rhymes the Miami Florida native chose to attend Florida International University out of high school after being rated a 3 Star recruit. His four years at FIU didn’t go quite as planned as Rhymes primarily served as a depth piece for the team, and used a medical redshirt in 2012 to retain one year of eligibility that he would play at Murray State. 

After four years and 32 games with FIU, Rhymes had just 27 receptions for 305 yards while also serving as a gunner on coverage teams where he collected 6 tackles. Playing in 9 games he collected 10 receptions for 141 yards in his final collegiate season. The 6’3 213 pound wideout then turned heads at his pro day measuring in at 10 1/8 inch hands, with an 81 3/4 inch wingspan, and a 32 inch vertical. 

NFL Dreams Never Materialized

Dominique Rhymes would spend the 2016 season out of football waiting for an opportunity with the NFL that never came. In 2017 he looked north to begin his career signing with the Ottawa Redblacks for the first time.

After wrapping up his rookie season having cut left and 50% of his targets on the year, he was brought in for a tryout with the Pittsburgh Steelers. His tryout didn’t ultimately result in a contract, but it did show that he was making progress playing in the CFL.

In his second year in Ottawa, coming during the 2018 season, he saw just four more targets, but managed seven more receptions this time around. He also scored his first touchdown of his professional career against Winnipeg. He had three big performances this season that flashed what he could be. The first came against Montreal when he caught all seven of his targets for 77 yards on the day. 

The following week is when he scored against Winnipeg, on a day that saw him catch 5 of 6 targets for 81 yards. Finally in week 21 he was targeted ten 10 times catching 6 for 101 yards, the first 100 yard game of his professional career. This left expectations high heading into 2019 and Rhymes delivered in a huge way. 

From logging his first 100 game in the final week of his second season and barely topping 300 yards on the year, to his first 1,000 yard season the following year. He saw 112 targets on the season, catching 65 of them for 1,056 yards and 5 touchdowns. This showed just what Rhymes could be in the right system with the right quarterback. 

Beginning with BC 

BC loved what they saw, and decided bringing Rhymes in for 2020 would help shore up a receiver group that needed a top flight talent. Signing with BC before the cancellation of the season, he opted to honor his contract and signed a one year extension with the team in the offseason. His first year with BC he only appeared in 8 games but logged 28 receptions for 411 yards, and 1 touchdown. He had been on pace for 63 receptions, 924 yards and 2 touchdowns on the year. 

In 2022 he stayed healthy and BC got to see exactly what they could have with Rhymes. In 2022 he finished the year third in the league with 85 receptions, and second in the league with 1,401 yards, and 11 touchdowns all of which were career highs for the veteran receiver. At this point Rhymes felt he had earned a raise so he requested a trade if he wasn’t going to see an increase with BC, instead the Lions offered him an extension which he signed the following day. However, He only made it one more season with BC before being released. 

His last season with BC was disappointing for Rhymes, and the team as he missed 8 games total playing in 10 on the season. He was targeted 63 times, down just slightly from his target share in 2022. His catch rate also fell nearly 15% from nearly 70% to just over 55%. At 30 years old Rhymes might have a couple more prime seasons left in him, if he can stay healthy. The reliance on oft-injured veterans in the wide receiver room, and offense in general should be concerning to most going forward. 

Two More Pass-Catchers 

The Redblacks didn’t stop there adding two more wideouts. Kalil Pimpleton and Dontay Demus have both been signed to add even more depth at wide receiver. This comes after signing four receivers in one day, and following it up by bringing back Bralon Addison. Pimpleton first appeared on Ottawa’s radar in 2022, and he caught their attention enough that he was added to their negotiation list alongside several names with XFL ties. 

Pimpleton began college at Virginia Tech before transferring to Central Michigan University where he quickly took over as one of their most dangerous weapons on offense and special teams. Anyway CMU could get the ball in his hands they were doing it. He finished his career with the school having caught 170 passes for 2,131 yards and 12 tds, 40 Carrie’s for 303 yards and 5 touchdowns, 48 punt returns for 568 yards and 2 touchdowns, as well as 2 kick returns for 26 yards. As if that wasn’t enough he threw 11 passes completing 6 for 126 yards and 1 touchdown, and collected 3 tackles. 

This and his solid performance at his pro day attracted attention from the Detroit Lions of course having played in the same state. He would spend the entire offseason competing for a roster spot with Detroit only to be waived in final cuts after catching 9 passes for 69 yards. Immediately after he signed with the New York Giants where he stuck into 2023 making it until final cuts before being released late in August. Now he gets an opportunity with the CFL, but he won’t have any easy path to a starting position. 

Dontay Demus

The Redblacks were the last team to tap the well of talent that just came available from the UFL dispersal draft. Now in a matter of days they have signed three players from the process who were not selected, including Demus. Demus was technically a member of the Philadelphia Stars but had only signed for the 2024 season before watching his team disappear. 

The Stars weren’t the first professional team to see potential in Demus, in fact it was the Baltimore Ravens. The 6’3 212 pound wideout fit what the Ravens were looking for at the time. Although he isn’t the fastest player running a 4.56, he is explosive off the line of scrimmage with a 1.55 10-yard split, and shows that ability in the vertical, and broad jump as well with a 35.5 inch, and 10 foot 3 inch jumps respectively. 

Demus did not make the initial roster in Baltimore having been released in final cuts. He wasn’t re-signed until a month later when he was called back to the practice squad. This stint lasted just one week. Ironically his time with the Stars somehow never even really began. Now Demus joins a team with staying power in 2024, with a chance to finally make a name for himself. He is young enough that one strong season would likely garner NFL attention once again. 

Redblacks Extend a Pair of Pass Rushers 

The Redblacks haven’t slowed down now that their offseason moves have begun. Over the past 3 days they have brought in a veteran wide receiver, re-signed their top two pass rushers and extended a potential starting linebacker. The biggest moves have to be bringing back Bryce Carter and Lorenzo Mauldin IV. 

Last season while Mauldin IV was facing more attention from opposing offenses than ever before, Carter was able to benefit from the one on one matchups he was given often. Between these two players the Redblacks have found their starting defensive ends for the foreseeable future after watching them collect 36 sacks collectively over the last two seasons. 

With both Mauldin and Carter topping double digit sacks in back-to-back seasons with 17, and 12 respectively. Even with Mauldin IV facing double teams more than ever before in 2023 he managed 5 sacks. No matter which player is forced to fight off double teams it will benefit the other, and ultimately the defense as a whole. Teams will have no choice but to pick their poison when on offense deciding who to single up with in blocking assignments. Now the Redblacks need to shore up interior defensive line to create constant pressure. They have already begun this process. 

Deyon Sizer Adding Depth to the Interior 

Deyon Sizer hails from my backyard having last attended Colorado State University-Pueblo. Having spent his entire career up until 2022 in Colorado, he attended Eaglecrest High School before committing to CSU-Pueblo, followed by spending three seasons (19-21) with the Denver Broncos in some capacity. 

In 2022 he made the jump into the USFL with the New Jersey Generals where he spent the last two seasons working under Cris Dishman in 2022, and Ted Cottrell in 2023. Cottrell is known for his background developing defensive linemen and more specifically pass rushers. Sizer stands 6’4 280 pounds allowing him the versatility in most schemes to play inside and outside, but in Ottawa they have shown to like their interior linemen to be smaller quicker guys who can add value as a pass rusher. 

I expect Sizer to play primarily from the inside in Ottawa, flanked by two of the better pass rushers in the league in 2024. During his college career he showed how disruptive he can be when he had 20.5 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, and 2 blocked kicks. He didn’t play much with the Broncos but picked up where he left off in college adding another sack and a half in limited time due to injuries. His recent injury history could be some cause for concern but I don’t expect Sizer to be the only free agent addition at defensive tackle. 

Offensive Line..Some Assembly Required

The Redblacks also re-signed Dino Boyd, and signed rookie Des Holmes making sure they have depth on the line heading into 2024. Boyd was a starting lineman at points the last three seasons for Ottawa and has now suited up in 35 games since joining the team in 2021. Having primarily played right tackle, he does have some positional versatility and the size to play inside as well. 

Des Holmes is a 6’5 307 pound offensive lineman coming out of Arizona State after originally attending Penn State. At his pro day he was recovering from a knee injury but took measurements and did the bench press putting up 23 reps. He has a 78 inch wingspan, and 32 3/8 inch arms which have helped him become a quality lineman in college. 

After college he was selected in the 2023 XFL Rookie Draft by Randy Mueller’s Seattle Sea Dragons. With the XFL/USFL merger causing this team to go on the shelf, Holmes became available. He could be a very high upside player for Ottawa. Quite frankly if not for his injury late in his career I don’t know if we even see him in the CFL at all. He might be on an NFL roster right now. 

Redblacks Re-Sign Tyron Vrede 

The Ottawa Redblacks have resigned linebacker Tyron Vrede a Dutch national player who was selected in the 2nd round of the 2021 CFL Global Draft. After briefly flirting with playing football in Amsterdam he opted to instead try his hand at the American collegiate football system. This led him to attend West Hills Coalinga for one season playing primarily as a defensive back. 

After his first year the coaching staff was fired and this pushed Vrede to transfer to Garden City Community College in Kansas. It was here that he moved full time to linebacker. This proved to be a move that would benefit him long term. After just one season playing linebacker at Garden City, North Dakota came calling. 

Over his next two seasons he established himself as a rotational player in North Dakota’s  defense. After four seasons of college he had 120 tackles, and 5.5 sacks, displaying a knack for rushing the passer as a linebacker. After beginning his tackle football career at the ripe age of 17, he used the Madden video game to help familiarize himself, and being delayed a year by Covid 19, he was drafted in the 2nd round of the CFL Global Draft. 

Beginning his Professional Career 

Vrede signed his contract in April of 2021 looking forward to competing for a roster spot. Over the next two seasons Vrede built a name for himself among the coaching staff in Ottawa playing well on special teams and spot duty on defense. This culminated in him taking on a larger role in 2023. 

In 2023 Vrede was looked at as a very prominent piece of the linebacking corps. Playing in just 4 games he made 2 starts and in one of these games showcased his ability to patrol the field sideline to sideline when he collected 11 tackles. This came in early July, and it was after this game that he would exit the lineup and not return for the rest of the season. 

Vrede must have a fan in Bob Dyce who likely had a loud voice in the decision to extend his contract. This sends a clear message the team believes they have found a valuable player in Vrede and they needed to take the steps to lock him in to make sure they have starting caliber players under contract before we really get into free agency. Maybe Vrede’s background as a defensive back will help this defense be better in coverage in 2024. While they were among the league’s best run defenses, this came because teams knew their defense was vulnerable against the pass. 

Speaking of Linebackers

Check out my recent interview with Chizi Umankwe and Shane Simpson both current CFL/UFL/NFL free agents. 

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Sam Just Reporter
I am a writer and content creator focusing on alternative football leagues like the UFL, CFL, AFL, IFL, NAL, and AIF. If you like alternative football leagues, check out my personal platform Shady Sports Network on YouTube and all your favorite social media platforms.
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