Redblacks offence gutted in CFL free agency

The Ottawa Redblacks have lost four offensive starters on the first day of CFL free agency, including quarterback Trevor Harris.

3 of 4 departing players signed with Edmonton Eskimos

Quarterback Trevor Harris set a CFL playoff record with six touchdown passes and 90.6 completion percentage in the 2018 East final at Ottawa. He signed with the Edmonton Eskimos on Tuesday. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press/File)

It took only a few hours after the Canadian Football League free agency period opened on Tuesday before the Ottawa Redblacks offence was sacked by the other teams.

The club lost four offensive starters shortly after the market opened up at noon, with quarterback Trevor Harris leading the exodus.

Harris, 32, was picked up by the Edmonton Eskimos shortly after that team lost their own starting quarterback, Mike Reilly, to the B.C. Lions.

"I'm so grateful for my time in Ottawa. I grew as a man, leader, and player," Harris told CBC Radio's All In A Day.

"The fans and the city are always going to have a huge special place in my heart."

Harris is coming off the best season of his CFL career. He completed 431-of-615 passes for 5,116 yards and 22 TDs. He had a league playoff-record six touchdown strikes in the East Division final before the Redblacks lost 27-16 to Calgary in the Grey Cup game.

Trevor Harris won a Grey Cup with the Ottawa Redblacks in 2016, behind then starting quarterback Henry Burris. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Harris also won a Grey Cup with the club in 2016 behind then starting quarterback Henry Burris.

But Harris said he felt the team's head office —including general manager, Marcel Desjardins—  had signaled to him they were ready to head in a different direction, despite the quarterback wanting to stay in Ottawa if he could.

"I heard from Marcel for the first time this off-season [Tuesday] morning," Harris said.

During a teleconference call on Monday, Desjardins implied that the team decided to go with Dominique Davis as their starter when they resigned him at the end of January.

"When we signed Dominique... we had a pretty good sense as to how things were going to play out with Trevor."

Desjardins said as of right now Davis will be the team's starting quarterback heading into the 2019 season, but didn't rule out that possibility of bringing in other options.

More Redblacks heading west

But the bleeding didn't stop with Harris. Edmonton also picked up offensive lineman SirVincent Rogers and receiver Greg Ellingson — both are three-time East Division all-stars and were with the team when they won the championship in 2016.

Ellingson had played four seasons with Ottawa, recording 1,000 yards or more receiving each season. His best season came in 2017 where he recorded 1,459 yards and hauled in 12 touchdowns. That was also Harris's first full year starting under centre.

SirVincent Rogers was a staple for the Redblacks offensive line for four seasons, appearing in 61 games and winning the league's most outstanding lineman award in 2015.

Ottawa also lost running back William Powell, a 1,000-yard rusher the past two seasons, to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Harris said he had been talking with both Rogers and Ellingson about the possibility of sticking together, but added that they ultimately made their own decisions.

William Powell is the fourth Ottawa player heading west. Powell signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders after spending all three of his seasons in the CFL with the Redblacks.

Powell, a two-time East Division all-star, had back-to-back seasons with over 1,000 yards rushing, finishing second in the league's rushing title both years.

The Redblacks had already lost another leading receiver earlier this year. After a 1,000 yard season, Diontae Spencer was released in January to pursue an opportunity with the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers.

With files from Canadian Press