The Ticats sign five Canadians (and what it means)

The Ticats announced the signings of five nationals on Thursday and while none of the names are particularly well known, these are the kind of deals that could provide the team with essential Canadian depth down the road.

Offensive linemen Everton Williams, Braden Schram and Kay Okafor are projects, solid university players who need time to develop at the CFL level. Williams has been in the organization for three seasons as he makes the conversion from defensive end (the position he played at the University of Toronto) and played in nine games in a backup role last season. Clearly, they see progress in him.

Schram was a second-round pick last year and played in one game last season while Okafor was a third-round selection and, like Williams, is trying to make the transition to the opposite side of the ball. He’s originally from Nigeria, came to football relatively late, but is an excellent athlete who just needs some time.

All three players finished the 2017 season on the practice roster, meaning they were free agents after the season. The fact the Ticats were able to re-sign them shows the players see some value in remaining with the organization as well – another good sign.

Receiver Jacob Scarfone was a sixth-round pick last year and was a bit of a flyer after missing all of 2016 due to injury. He spent the first two months with the Tiger-Cats before being released on July 31 to return to the University of Guelph. He posted 44 receptions for 729 yards and six touchdowns for the Gryphons and was named a USports Second Team All-Canadian. Again, development.

Finally, defensive lineman Jack McEwen is the brother of Sean McEwen, the all-star centre with the Toronto Argonauts. He was signed as a free agent after having his best university season in his final year of eligibility with the Calgary Dinos; he was named as a Canada West All-Star after leading the conference in sacks with 4.5. McEwen went undrafted and the Ticats actually took the unusual step of putting him on their negotiation list – a relative rarity for national players.

The Ticats have had some success signing undrafted free agents in the past, including offensive lineman Landon Rice and linebacker Geoff Hughes. Centre Cody Husband, now with the B.C. Lions, came to the club in the same way.

Canadian depth is one of the hardest things to build in the CFL because, generally speaking, teams either have to draft and develop it (which takes time) or sign it in free agency (which is expensive.) These signings may not look like much but they could pay big dividends if any of these players blossoms into a bona fide starter.

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 (1553 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.

21 Comments on The Ticats sign five Canadians (and what it means)

  1. Good start. Like Drew says, not household names, yet, but the best teams are always the ones with the best Canadian depth.

    • Depth? just some ratio fillers.
      The Canadian ratio is a joke. Sign as many player as you can so other teams have less to choose from.
      Let’s face it, we aren’t signing these guys based upon talent.
      Since when have the best teams have the best Canadian depth? that is nonsense
      The best teams have the best Import players – the best QB, best receivers, defensive players !!

      • Joe I am with you on this. The ratio is an artificial scarcity machine. This is the only North American league that has national quotas. Mexico is in North America and their pro soccer league has no quotas. In fact Mexican Americans born in border states are flooding the MX liga and nobody cares. 2/3 of NHL Franchises are in USA but only 25% of players are US born. Yet the NHL sells out games in unlikely places like Tampa, Florida. Why? The lightning are good and filled with Russians and Canadians. Excellence sells not favoritism. Even the MLS is now not American Majority any more. MLB chases Dominicans and Japanese as hard as they do US college and HS players. The only reason why there are not more Japanese players is because they can make a great living at home. I would start to phase it out the ratio this year in 2018 by scrapping the QB exemption rule so Brandon Bridge gets a fair shot based on his talent. Compensate by changing over all ratio to 6-6. Then lower by one for Halifax to 5 cana. Then re-evaluate based on attendance and new TV money from NFL Networks or wherever. CFL will always be Canadian in nature but people will respect it more if the players are there on merit not favoritism. Hockey fans in the US are fine with only 25% US players because they know they are there because they deserve it. Plus the Junior ranks are flooding with Americans from southern states. Why because they see excellence on the ice in their cities such as Phoenix and Nashville and they want to emulate it. Next years top draft pick is from Scottsdale, AZ. The same can happen to Canadian youth if they see the CFL hire on merit and put quality first on the field.

        • habbernack // December 9, 2017 at 6:13 pm //

          So what you are saying is the only reason it should be called the CFL is because it’s a football league that’s played in Canada.If it was wide open do you think any canadian would subplant an american?

  2. Ronnie Wilkinson // December 7, 2017 at 10:52 pm //

    The only signing that matters is the signing of Johnny Manziel. Nobody gives a rat’s behind about some dud Canadians that probably will never start.

  3. Jason Gult // December 7, 2017 at 11:35 pm //

    It means that the good american players (and some Canadian) are still trying to make the NFL and have a real future in football.

    Canadian “football” rules makes it harder for Canadian players to achieve the American dream and play in the NFL. CFL should adopt NFL rules to try and ever so lightly, even the playing field. At least try to give Canadian players a better shot at becoming a pro football player

    • Brilliant idea. Because there’s no conceivable way for any Canadian kid to attend a college, anywhere in the world, that plays football by the American rules. Right?

    • Jason – the top Canadian high school players are scouted by the NCAA and recruited.
      Canadians do not really have a disadvantage, if you are a great high school player you could end up in the NCAA.
      We already give an advantage to Canadians over Americans in our league.
      I think the CFL should adopt FOUR downs, it would really open up the offense on the larger Canadian field.
      Reduce the Canadian ratio and play 4 down football. You would see more fans coming out in places like Toronto where they see the CFL as minor league.

  4. What about the free agents? Oh right that will cost money! Get ready for another basement season in the “Hammer”! Focus on the future is smoke screen, we have been focusing on that for too long and we are fed up. Not saying these boys don’t have talent but we have talented players on free agent list sign them first.

  5. What’s with this “National” crap. It’s “non-import”…sheesh!

    • I guess you haven’t kept up with the CFL changes as they went to “National” a while ago.

      If you look at the Game Rule Ratio – there are Nationals, Internationals, QBs and Reserves.

      In case the change was not clear, for a National Player the note says “formerly Non-Import” while for the International Player “formerly Import”.

      From what I recall, the switch was at least several years ago.

  6. Gotta get the bodies to fill the ration quota one way or another. No problem the other way. Enough Americans to fill the CFL rosters 10 time over.

    • Yep, and we would see much better football on the field too if we had ALL players competing for the positions.
      Right now we have the usual Canadian Positions – “O” line, Safety, one receiver, usually one linebacker and one “D” lineman.
      There are the exceptions of course but it’s likely the Canadians that do start at RB are NCAA trained players.

  7. YEs, reduce ratio to 6 this year then 5 when Halifax comes in then evaluate based on revenue changes. 3 downs is fine it makes it more fun.

  8. The rules on imports were wide open in the CFL’s formative years, until the Winnipeg ‘Pegs became the first western team to win the Grey Cup in 1935 with eight imports on the roster, led by the legendary Fritzie Hanson.

    Residency requirements were established the following year, which led to the 1936 western champ Regina Roughriders declining their trip to the Grey Cup rather than play without five key imports.

    These rules are inconsistence with NAFTA and free trade in General. Scrap them. You will appreciate the Canadian that has a slot on merit only more than on coddling and favoritism. We hate it when Trump talks of protectionism don’t be a hypocrite.

  9. If you want to make all those rule changes then just watch NFL. The last thing I want to watch is another boring NFL league

  10. Edward Leslie // December 8, 2017 at 6:28 pm //

    It’s the CANADIAN Football League. As for the ratio, many European hockey leagues have similar rules to encourage players from those countries.
    We’ve seen numerous big US college stars or even NFLers head north and fail in the CFL. The young Canadian players just need to be developed and they will hold their own against US talent.With no ratio, they don’t even get a chance to develop though.
    As for just wanting Americans and not caring about nationality, to those people I say NONSENSE. So would you feel that way if the boss came in on Monday and told you and most of your co- workers that they are bringing in replacements from the US or Mexico or Asia? I kinda doubt it!

  11. A small start in the right direction but I really want to know what’ll happen at QB. Second what’ll happen with contributing players who are set to become free agents?

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