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Rourke move to Jags could benefit CFL Talented players could be attracted to three-down loop for experience and exposure

It was only a matter of time before Nathan Rourke found a new football home.

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It was only a matter of time before Nathan Rourke found a new football home.

Rourke, a Canadian-born quarterback who took the CFL by storm in his second season with the B.C. Lions in 2022, has signed a three-year contract with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. The 24-year-old worked out for more than a dozen NFL clubs before making his decision — a choice he said ultimately came down to the way Jacksonville treated him throughout the process and the opportunity he now has in front of him.

The news, though seemingly inevitable, still came with a bit of shock. The surprise being that Rourke chose the Jaguars, a club that already has a generational talent under centre in Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence, who was selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, is certainly Jacksonville’s present and future.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

QB Nathan Rourke has signed a deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars after a stellar season in the CFL.

After Rourke had set numerous CFL records — and he would have set more had he not been limited to 10 games because of an injured foot — the thought was he’d go to a team where he could push for a starting role. Rourke said last week that the goal remains to be a No. 1 QB in the NFL, and that learning behind Lawrence in Doug Pederson’s offence is the best route to achieve it.

While some have been critical of the decision, I’m in the camp that sees Jacksonville as an ideal landing spot. Rourke proved to be a quick study in B.C., but to think he was going to carve out a starting role in the NFL in similar fashion is wishful thinking, especially when you consider he still needs to fully rehab from his aforementioned foot injury. It also helps that former CFLer and Canadian Football Hall of Fame QB Henry Burris is on the coaching staff.

Rourke’s departure from the CFL has also created a debate over whether his leaving is bad for the league. No one can argue it’s a good thing, but the more Rourke can excel in the NFL, the more players — whether they be from the U.S., Canada or elsewhere — will see the CFL as valuable place to grow and create opportunity. And that’s a good thing.

Let’s get into what else has been brewing in the three-down loop in the latest edition of CFL Rundown.


1) With Rourke gone, the Lions now look to Vernon Adams Jr. to take over the offence. Adams was acquired in a trade with Montreal last summer shortly after Rourke suffered a sprained Lisfranc. He played in six games, finishing 4-2, while throwing for 1,504 passing yards, six touchdowns and one interception. Adams has the support of his coaches and teammates, and although he’s not at the same calibre as Rourke, he does come with a reasonable price tag. The 30-year-old is set to earn a base of around $150,000, with the chance to more than double that to around $400,000 if he hits all his incentives. Even if Adams hits all his incentives, that’s a relatively cheap cost for a veteran QB. That extra money should go a long way in surrounding Adams with weapons, whether it be on the O-line, receiver or running back.

PETER MCCABE / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

B.C. Lions quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. was acquired in a trade with Montreal last summer shortly after Rourke suffered a sprained Lisfranc.

2) The Winnipeg Blue Bombers re-signed a big piece of their D-line, inking Jackson Jeffcoat to a one-year deal. There had been rumblings for a while about a deal getting done with the 32-year-old, only for the news to break on Monday. Jeffcoat is one of the league’s best defensive ends, with the only concern about him being his health. The Texas native was limited to 12 games for a fourth consecutive season (2021 only had 14 regular season games) and at his age, it’s reasonable to think he won’t be available for much more in 2023. My Free Press colleague Taylor Allen spoke to Kyle Walters about Jeffcoat’s health last week and the Bombers GM said the team is working on a plan to keep him healthier this season. Unsure what that looks like, as Jeffcoat is often limited in practice, but I’d trust head athletic therapist Al Couture to put a good plan together.

3) The Ottawa Redblacks said late last week that they expected QB Jeremiah Masoli to be fully healed from a season-ending knee injury in time for spring’s training camp. Just days later, they inked the 34-year-old Masoli to a one-year extension through the 2024 season. I’m high on Masoli and he looked like he was fitting in well before ending his season in Week 5. Let’s hope that he can return to his old self and help out a Redblacks club that is under a lot of pressure, with a new coaching staff following a miserable 4-14 campaign last year.

DANIEL CRUMP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers re-signed a big piece of their D-line, inking Jackson Jeffcoat to a one-year deal.

4) Other notable signings: DL Jake Ceresna (Edmonton); OL Jermarcus Hardrick (Winnipeg); OL Zack Williams (Calgary); DB Loucheiz Purifoy (Edmonton); OL Stanley Bryant (Winnipeg); returner DeVonte Dedmon (Ottawa); DL Cleyon Laing (Ottawa); DB Nick Marshall (Saskatchewan); and REC Manny Arceneaux (Edmonton).

5) In a sit-down interview with 3Downnation’s Justin Dunk at the winter meetings last week, Saskatchewan Roughriders GM Jeremy O’Day said he was still undecided about bringing back receiver Duke Williams in 2023. Williams is a pending free agent coming off his first full season with the Roughriders, finishing with a disappointing 29 receptions for 480 yards and four touchdowns in eight games. I can’t see why the Roughriders would even entertain the idea, for a few reasons. Williams is coming off yet another injury-riddled season, his ankle being the biggest concern in recent years. But injuries aside, Williams has proven over and over again to be unpredictable in his actions. In his parts of four seasons playing in the CFL, he’s been accused of spitting on and eye gouging players. Just last season he was accused for a second time of spitting on an opponent, was suspended a game for throwing his helmet at a player during the CFL’s annual Touchdown Atlantic game and earned a penalty on the sidelines while in street clothes. Need I go on?

6) Speaking of the Riders, I guess a reunion with QB Cody Fajardo isn’t out of the question. In fact, Saskatchewan head coach Craig Dickenson called it a “big maybe.” Dickenson prefaced that, however, by saying it was highly unlikely Fajardo would be re-signed before free agency opens on Feb. 14. Sounds like a coach just trying to be nice.

7) Lots going on with the Montreal Alouettes that has nothing to do with the current ownership group and the desire to find a new one. The Alouettes have two notable pending free agents in QB Trevor Harris and all-star receiver Eugene Lewis. GM Danny Maciocia and head coach Jason Maas have called both players a priority, though the two seem to be on separate paths at the moment. I look at Harris and his history with Maas, both in Toronto and Edmonton, and it feels likely a deal will get done. I’m not so sure about Lewis. Lewis, who will be 30 in April, has been extremely vocal about his talents and accolades over Twitter. He’s gone as far as listing how many QBs he’s played with in his four seasons in Montreal, which by the way is an eye-popping 22. My read is he wants to get paid and the Alouettes aren’t meeting his demands at this time.

GRAHAM HUGHES / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES Jason Maas, the head coach of the Montreal Alouettes.

8) Bo Levi Mitchell is going to be a Hamilton Tiger-Cat. The Ticats continue to woo him with seemingly little success, but I’d argue it’s just a matter of time. If not Hamilton, where? And don’t tell me Saskatchewan.

9) The Argonauts are working on an extension with head coach Ryan Dinwiddie. Dinwiddie led Toronto to a Grey Cup win over the Bombers in November, proving he could lead a young and immature Argos club to the top of the CFL castle. He deserves the extension, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he led Toronto to more Grey Cups during his time there.

10) Chris Streveler has been given a contract with the New York Jets for the 2023 season. It’s terrific news for the former Bomber, who has already earned himself an NFL pension for time served in the league. I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but the extension feels like the end of any hope that Streveler could return to the CFL. He’s only 29, so there’s a chance, but it’s not often you spend years in the NFL and return to the CFL in your 30s.

Jeff.Hamilton@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

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