Ticats set to go through kicking casting call (again)

Were the CFL season to begin tomorrow, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats would be in relatively good shape with a pair of experienced quarterbacks, a solid receiving corps and plenty of talent on defence.

The only issue: there’d be nobody to kick off.

For the second straight year, the Ticats are halfway through their off-season and do not have a single kicker on the roster. The team allowed Brett Maher, who handled both the placekicking and punting duties in 2016, to go to free agency and while he remains unsigned, there does not appear to be a sense of urgency on either side to get a deal done.

Maher had two-thirds of a great season for the Ticats. After 13 weeks, he was third in the CFL with an 87.9 per cent accuracy rate on field goals while missing just one extra point. His 36.0 yard net punting average was good enough for fifth in the CFL.

But by the end of the year, Maher’s field goal percentage had dipped to 82 per cent, he was sixth in net punting and his kickoff average had fallen almost two yards a boot. In the East Semi-Final loss to Edmonton, Maher missed a 35 yarder in the second quarter in a game the Ticats would eventually lose by a field goal.

While some of the decline could be be attributed to the typically more difficult fall weather and there are some other mitigating statistics – Maher went 6-for-7 beyond 50 yards and his average make was from 35.3 yards out, second-highest in the CFL – there’s little question that Maher struggled down the stretch. That’s made the Ticats reluctant to hand him the job – and a contract with much by the way of guaranteed money – for the 2017 season.

Instead, the team seems inclined to go through much the same process as last off-season where they held a series of workouts for prospective kickers, including a two-day session at Tim Hortons Field with a more than a half-dozen candidates (that event is on schedule again this spring.) They brought three kickers to mini-camp, two to training camp and only gave Maher the nod after he ran gauntlet and defeated all challengers.

For his part, Maher likely feels he’s done enough to earn a raise from the approximately $65,000 he earned last season, not to mention some job security. His problem: he doesn’t have a ton (or any) leverage.

Even at this early stage, seven of the nine CFL teams look set in the kicking game. Some will go with a Canadian or two (Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Saskatchewan) while others employ a big-money American (Winnipeg and B.C.) Montreal seems determined to role the dice with Boris Bede again. That leaves just Ottawa – Maher kicked there in 2014 and didn’t like how the club handled his injury the following year – and Hamilton.

And there are lots of options. Both American Anthony Fera and Canadian Chris Milo kicked in the league last season and are available. So is former Ticat Sergio Castillo, who’s had stints with Winnipeg and Ottawa. There are literally dozens of former Canadian university and American college guys looking for an opportunity.

After taking a unsuccessful run at American free agent Swayze Waters, who ultimately signed in B.C. for more than what the Ticats were willing to pay, Hamilton seems confident they can duplicate last year’s qualified success – even if it means doing so without the guy who provided it.

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.
Drew Edwards
Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (1358 Articles)
Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.

35 Comments on Ticats set to go through kicking casting call (again)

  1. Yikes

  2. Cheap out on a kicker? why would Austin do that? These guys win or lose games for teams every week. having a great kicker wins championships. Makes no sense.

  3. A kicker is only one third of the FG and PA team… and Maher had to get used to multiple holders last season… so I don’t blame him 100% for his late season decline… also I lost count but we had multiple blocked punts last year… not sure if (lack of) blocking was the issue… but again not totally his fault…

    I think with a consistent trio and better blocking he again looks good… cannot see why there’s an impasse…

    Cheers… Snake

  4. Maher was totally inconsistent period. He had a good heavy leg. But he lacked consistency, especially on punts, and kickoffs. I remember well, all the punts, and even kickoffs, going out of bounds, thus giving the opposition better field position. Ti-Cats are not willing to pay an international kicker the Big money. Or they would have kept Medlock, Or even signed Swaze Waters. So they (Tillman & Austin) are going to be “cheap” and go to camp, hoping to find “A diamond in the rough” and find an inexpensive FG/K cheap,preferably a National. Forget Milo, he can’t kick FG’s over 40 yards? And like the above comment? Why would you want to go with a cheap, inconsistent FG/P when it comes down to a FG or good punt in the last minute of a game? Makes you wonder, sometimes Ti-Cats fans?…:)

  5. The Iceman // March 5, 2017 at 3:12 pm //

    Snake, you stole my thunder brother. Too lazy to check but was there a relation to the Tasker injury and the fall off of FG %?
    Dude was a beauty for the first half of the season. Was there a nagging injury….maybe.
    I am fine with another season with Maher as our kicker though!

  6. I wonder if Brett Maher will audition with the other potential kickers? Sometimes when you miss a critical kick, the coach just decides he does not want you back although the 35-yarder against Edmonton was hardly the deciding play.

  7. The team does have options. If they can not find another kicker through tryouts, then Maher would probably still be available. Or they might roll the dice on an available Canadian like Milo or Shaw (personally not sold on either of them for all three jobs). They could even bring in a rookie Canadian kicker as apparently there are a few out there this year. One only has to remember how well Paredes tuned out for Calgary as a pure rookie. Another outside possibility is a trade with Sask for the kicker that they drafted last year who is languishing on their PR. They already have Crapigna (recently re-signed I think) and Bartel so might be willing to give up Van Gylswyk for the rights to Johnny Football! 🙂

  8. Lennywasout // March 5, 2017 at 5:22 pm //

    Kicking is 1/3 of the game. You’d think we’d be more progressive and aggressive in signing a proven kicker of any nationality. I hope Maher can prove he’s the one and get paid accordingly.
    Having said that, an open competition, even if he is signed to a contract prior ,cannot be a bad thing.
    Wasn’t there an American kicker who we worked out who was amazing. There was lots of video on this guy. I forget his name.

  9. rogieshan // March 5, 2017 at 6:30 pm //

    Maher also faded in cold weather while he was in Ottawa, something Austin surely must have considered. Is Cody Mandell no longer on the roster?

  10. bigplay // March 5, 2017 at 6:35 pm //

    I thought Maher looked good on the road and sometimes at Home when it was not too windy but THF has a reputation for being a tough place for windy conditions.Medlock was able to figure out the wind problems where i do not think Maher was able to adjust.So why not bring in a Kicking Coach like Paul Osbaldiston who was always pretty good figuring out wind conditions is a former kicking Coach,lives in the area and was employed by the Team as a game day analyzer.Why not utilize his talents.

    • Philski // March 6, 2017 at 3:53 am //

      Better yet why not suit up Osbaldiston? He’d be an upgrade over Shaw, Milo, or Fera, if those are the other options…good grief!

  11. Pussycats // March 5, 2017 at 8:40 pm //

    Someone should tell our ‘know-it-all’ Head of Football Operations that a decent field goal kicker & punter often leads the league in points scored and certainly should get paid way more than a putrid ‘spit-in-your-face’ $65K, even in Hamilton. Sign Maher before someone else does!

    • Hey Pussycats did Kent personally piss in you corn flakes? Think Ill take his knowledge of the team and sport over yours any day. Where are your other personalities lately haven’t seen them liking or backing up your drivel.

    • Philski // March 6, 2017 at 4:09 am //

      Ah, Pussycats, you have to remember that this is the same head coach whose mantra is to live or die by the pass (and lately it has been the latter)…even though conventional wisdom (and Football 101) suggests you need some semblance of a running game to avoid having your QB repeatedly pancaked (and put on the IR). Not to mention the volume of frustration your receivers feel, throwing their hands skyward in hopeless despair because they are wide open but the ball can’t get there as it’s hard to throw from the ground up. Have you forgotten? Sheesh!

      • Philski. I guess that we would all like to see a running game but let’s keep our feet on the ground. Cats gave up 39 sacks … best in East. Collaros was hurt on an egregious uncalled foul. Pile drive by Hughes. Cats passing was third in league and first in touchdowns. So the receivers were not waiving their arms in despair.

  12. I recall Swayze Waters vs. Justin Medlock in a game at THF… Waters was pure money on every kick and definitely outclassed Medlock…. too bad Ticats were not able (willing) to sign him…

    Cheers… Snake

  13. Bring back Eric Wilbur.

    • Philski // March 6, 2017 at 4:19 am //

      Bring back Ian Sunter. Hell, bring back anybody so TC’s don’t have to go through this seemingly yearly “let’s find a Tiger, er, diamond in the rough” because we overspent in other places and too cheap to pay the going rate for a decent kicker.

  14. Paul Smith // March 5, 2017 at 10:03 pm //

    Ozzy may not be of much value re the winds at THF. The field faces a different direction now.

  15. Medlock won several games for the Cats and its on Austin that he didn’t see the value when he didn’t resign him.

    • My understanding at the time is that the $$ amount offered to JM between Winnipeg and Hamilton wasn’t significantly different. It’s possible that Medlock wanted a change or just didn’t want to have to fight the winds at THF any more.

  16. patlynch // March 6, 2017 at 5:55 am //

    My second favourite football team is the Steelers. Eric Tillman’s Canadian kid, Shaun Suisham, got hurt in the pre-season in 2014. Guys named Boswell, Wing, Bullock, Scobee, and 4 or 5 guys named Who filled in for Suisham. The Steeler kicking game has been fine with the next guy up. Maybe Tillman can find another Shaun Suisham for the Cats this year or some guy named Who?

  17. Who’s on first? Exactly. What’s the name if the first baseman? What’s the name if the second baseman. I’m not asking who’s on second? Who’s on first. I don’t know. Oh, he’s on third. Ok let’s start again… does the first baseman have a name? Who. First base? Who. What’s the name if the first baseman? What’s the name of the second baseman. I don’t know. Third base…

  18. Lindsay Wilcox // March 6, 2017 at 1:02 pm //

    Snake did you ever see Jonny Carson’s take on this, using Chinese premier Hu and Yasser Arafat ?

    Maybe Maher is playing NFL card like Sinkfield and not signing with anybody in CFL until after April ?

  19. Maher really faded badly the 2nd half of last season. Maybe he can’t deal with the cold weather and/or the asinine winds at THF.

  20. Remember Nick Setta? Invite him to the tryouts to see if he still has a leg left.

  21. rockfish // March 6, 2017 at 4:33 pm //

    Why not sign Maher, who I think did a decent job overall last year, and have him compete for the job…if he doesn’t win it, just release him. The kicker is not an area where you should be cheap, especially if he’s handling field goals and punts. Some teams have 2 kickers. Shouldn’t Maher be worth the equivalent of 2 salaries if he’s handling all the kicking duties?

  22. They should make a trade with Ottawa to get their hands on Ronnie Pfeffer

  23. Jim Fleck // March 7, 2017 at 1:43 am //

    A top notch kicker who can do ALL 3 kicking duties is good as gold no matter what side of the border he comes from. Usually when you go cheap you get cheap results which cost teams in the W column. Just use the Bombers as the most recent example with Medlock – as clear as night and day.

    • GoCats! // March 7, 2017 at 1:16 pm //

      You mean like their season ending game, where it seems the HC was overconfident in the kicking?

      I can recall Medlock getting off to a bad start and having games with Willy as QB where Medlock didn’t have the chance to make a difference.

      I’d have to check what happened after Nichols took over to see how much of a factor Medlock was over the season. Final % is in line with previous years but number of FG attempts is way up in Winnipeg.

  24. Chopper11 // March 7, 2017 at 12:47 pm //

    I would have loved to see Medlock stay, HOWEVER, Cats are Cap friendly though, unlike some teams, maybe. Saving cap space for Sinkfield over a kicker? Kickers don’t sell tickets…TDs sell more tickets than field goals, IMO…and I’m ok with that…
    I side with the brass way before I side with the doubters…

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