January 18, 2024

Dru Brown traded to Ottawa for draft pick.

Dru Brown’s exit from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers had long been expected as soon as the Canadian Football League’s free agent market opened in less than a month.

The club expedited the process today, trading Brown to the Ottawa RedBlacks in exchange for a fifth-round selection in the 2024 CFL Draft.

Brown had moved from the third spot on the Blue Bombers depth chart in 2021 to No. 2 behind Zach Collaros in 2022, but with the veteran pivot signed through 2025 and still dominant – he led the CFL in touchdown passes last season – the route to regular starting work here in Winnipeg was essentially blocked.

That, and the restrictions of the salary cap, had the club’s management expecting Brown’s departure since the end of the 2023 season. Here’s GM Kyle Walters from last week during the CFL’s winter meetings in Nashville on the subject:

“I believe Dru and his agent want to go to an organization where it’s less about who’s going to pay him the most money. I think it’s more about where he can go and have the best opportunity to compete with the incumbent quarterback or the other guys under contract to play.

“My gut tells me even if the Winnipeg Football Club could afford to match a contract they would think long and hard about the opportunity of where to go.”

The deal allows Ottawa to begin contract negotiations with Brown immediately and in advance of free agency, which opens on February 13th, and his addition could potentially attract other pending free agents to the nation’s capital, with Dalton Schoen’s name often linked to his former Blue Bombers teammate.

Ottawa recently restructured the contract of veteran QB Jeremiah Masoli, who has appeared in just five games over the last two years with the RedBlacks and also has Dustin Crum, Tyrie Adams, Nick Arbuckle, Tyrrell Pigrome and Jake Dunniway currently listed among its stable of pivots. That said, Brown’s best chance to start now in the CFL is in Ottawa where the 26-year-old former Oklahoma State/Hawaii starter will step out from under the shadow of Collaros and have a true shot at the No. 1 gig.

Brown posted sensational numbers for the Blue Bombers in 2023, completing 69.7 percent of his passes for 983 yards and nine touchdowns against zero interceptions and, in the process, set a CFL record for the most TD passes without a pick.

He led the Blue Bombers to a 2-0 record in his starts in 2023 – both wins over the Calgary Stampeders — and was 2-1 in career starts for Winnipeg, including his first start against the B.C. Lions in October of 2022. Brown also came off the bench in a win over the Edmonton Elks in August, rallying the club from a 22-0 hole by throwing for 307 yards and four touchdowns.

The Blue Bombers No. 3 pivot and short-yardage specialist from the last two years, Dakota Prukop, is also a pending free agent, leaving Collaros and rookies Terry Wilson and Eric Barriere as the QBs on the roster. Barriere’s addition was announced after the Brown trade and he’s an intriguing prospect who has had stints in the USFL with the Michigan Panthers and New Jersey Generals and participated in a mini-camp with the Denver Broncos in 2022. Barriere appeared in 51 games at Eastern Washington, throwing for 13,809 yards, 121 touchdowns against 29 interceptions while adding 22 rushing TDs and 1,585 yards along the ground. He won the Walter Payton Award as the top offensive player in NCAA Division 1 Football Championship Subdivision in 2021 and was the runner-up to the same award in 2020.

Winnipeg now has 10 selections in the 2024 CFL Draft — each of its picks in every round, a bonus in the second round, 20th overall, as a reward for snaps by Canadian players in 2023 and now Ottawa’s fifth-round choice, 40th overall, secured from the Brown trade. The Blue Bombers will pick 8th, 17th, 20th, 28th, 37th, 40th, 46th, 55th, 64th and 73rd overall.