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Toronto Argonauts quarterback Zach Collaros launches a pass against the B.C. Lions during first half CFL action in Toronto on Tuesday July 30, 2013. (Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Toronto Argonauts quarterback Zach Collaros launches a pass against the B.C. Lions during first half CFL action in Toronto on Tuesday July 30, 2013. (Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Emergence of quality backup quarterbacks a good sign for Ottawa Redblacks Add to ...

It’s been a good week for CFL backup quarterbacks, and that’s great news for Marcel Desjardins.

In December, the Ottawa Redblacks GM will stockpile his roster with CFL talent in preparation for the expansion franchise’s expected return next season. High on Desjardins’s wishlist will be a bona fide starter he can build his club around.

CFL teams can only protect one quarterback under contract during the Dec. 16 expansion draft so whenever a backup impresses, his future is immediately tied to the Redblacks. In the last week, Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell, Saskatchewan’s Drew Willy and Toronto’s Zach Collaros all added their names to that debate by smartly leading their clubs to victory in place of ailing starters.

“Obviously it gives us a much better picture,” Desjardins said via telephone while visiting the Seattle Seahawks’ training camp. “It’s different than the preseason because these guys are playing not only with the best players on their teams but also against what should be the best players on other teams so it’s a different perspective.

“Obviously it has worked out quite well for us early on. In a selfish way let’s hope it continues.”

Sophomore Mitchell, 23, was named the CFL’s offensive player of the week after competing 29-of-33 passes for 376 yards and three TDs in a 37-24 win over Winnipeg.

On Saturday, Willy, 26, made just his second CFL start but finished 14-of-25 passing for 269 yards and three TDs in leading unbeaten Saskatchewan (5-0) past Hamilton 32-20.

Three nights later in Toronto, Collaros was 21-of-25 passing for 253 yards and three TDs in guiding the Argos (3-2) to a convincing 38-12 home win over B.C.

In December, Desjardins will select 24 players (eight imports, 16 Canadians) over three rounds. Ottawa will take eight imports in the first round before selecting eight Canadians in each of the final two.

In addition to one quarterback, CFL clubs will be allowed to protect 10 additional imports under contract in the opening round. Any franchise losing a quarterback will then protect two more Canadians in the second round while a club losing a punter/kicker can protect another Canadian.

In the second round, Ottawa will select eight Canadians — one from each team — as CFL GMs will be allowed to protect six non-imports.

If Desjardins wants a Canadian-born kicker or punter, he’ll have to take him in the second. A team losing a non-import kicker or punter will be allowed to protect two more Canadians in the third.

CFL teams will protect at least six more Canadians in the third round, depending on who they’ve lost to that point. Ottawa will complete the process by taking another non-import from each team.

Ottawa can take a maximum of two quarterbacks and one kicker/punter. All three can’t come from the same club.

Desjardins is nowhere near deciding which players — quarterbacks included — he’ll take in December, and with good reason. CFL teams are just five games into the 2013 season with plenty of football remaining.

There’s also the matter of contract status, salaries, age and which players are slated to become free agents in February and whether they’ll re-sign with their present clubs before the deadline or test free agency. CFL teams are only obligated to protect players under contract.

And even then, CFL GMs will makes offers to Desjardins to bypass players they want to keep but can’t protect. In fact, that process has started.

“I’ve had brief discussions with certain teams just in passing that at some point we need to talk in more detail relative to what might be more advantageous for you and therefore for us whether it’s quarterbacks or something else,” Desjardins said. “From that standpoint we need to explore those avenues and see if there’s something that might be more beneficial to us.

“Teams are going to handle their rosters differently. Some may elect to allow some guys to become free agents while others might elect to lock up as many as they can which will obviously impact what we can do with each team as well.”

Desjardins actually began stockpiling talent at this year’s CFL draft by taking four underclassmen and will make eight picks next year. Desjardins also has 25 players on his negotiation list, 10 less than other league teams.

The ‘13 expansion draft will give Ottawa better access to the quarterback talent than the former Ottawa Renegades had in ‘02. That year, CFL teams protected two quarterbacks.

But if the Renegades didn’t like a team’s Canadian talent pool, they could take the club’s 2002 or ‘03 second-round pick instead.

“Obviously at the quarterback position it’s going to be better because teams can only protect one however we can only select two overall,” Desjardins said. “But the last time Ottawa was involved in relation to the non-import portion of the draft, they could take a second-round pick from a team . . . we don’t have that option.

“We’re limited right now on our negotiation list . . . those 10 names may not sound like much but we’re all doing NFL training camps right now and those 10 names could help us out enormously in the next year or two.”

At first glance, the expansion draft should make quality players available to Ottawa but Desjardins says that won’t necessarily be the case.

“Just because it says there are 10 imports protected and we can pick the 11th, well, each team is going to have a handful of free agents so we’re not necessarily picking the 11th guy,” he said. “All of a sudden we’re taking the 13th-, 14th-, 15th-best import and on certain teams that’s going to be better than others.

“The same also applies to the non-import portion of it. (Clubs) protect six and in theory we’ll get a starter because there are seven Canadian starters per team but again, there’s going to be free agents. And when they protect another six non-imports after we pick one, at that point what are you really getting? That’s where the second-round pick would be much more helpful.

“But we’ll make it work. There are some better aspects to (expansion draft), there are other aspects that aren’t as good. Obviously from our standpoint we always want it to be better.”

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