Five things still on the Ticats to-do list

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have had a productive off-season thus far, inking head coach June Jones to a contract extension and securing the services of free-agents-to-be Jeremiah Masoli and Brandon Banks, ensuring their starting quarterback and big-time playmaker will return in 2018. They also dealt former starter Zach Collaros, freeing up a big chunk of salary cap space.

But there’s still much to be done. With that in mind, here are five things the Ticats need to accomplish – and sooner rather than later.

1. Announce their coaching staff.

While most CFL teams have already named their coaches for the upcoming season, the Ticats have yet to do so. We know that offensive coordinator Stefan Ptaszek won’t be back as he’s taken the OC job with the UBC Thunderbirds. There’s chatter that offensive line coach Mike Markuson and running backs coach Corey Grant, two more holdovers from the staff of former head coach Kent Austin, are out as well.

One thing to watch for: the amount of CFL experience among the coaches on the offensive side of the football. While Ptaszek may have been OC in name only – Jones called the plays – he did serve as translator, helping to morph the run-and-shoot concepts into something that would work on the bigger field.

2. Resolve the Manziel situation.

It feels like it’s been all Johnny, all the time since news broke last August that the Ticats had worked out the controversial quarterback. The recent outlandish contract demands by his agent – coupled with an arbitrary and meaningless deadline of Jan. 31 – has done little to quell the circus atmosphere that seems to follow Manziel everywhere. Getting him under contract – or deciding to move on – would go some way to quelling the constant chatter and speculation (at least for now.)

2a. Find a backup quarterback (if Johnny isn’t coming.)

If Manziel is coming to Hamilton, it will be as the back up (no matter what he and his agent may think.) But if a deal can’t be reached, then the Ticats are still in need of a solid No. 2 behind Masoli.

With Collaros gone and third-year man Everett Golson set to become a free agent (and he’s thrown exactly four regular season passes) the Ticats have just Dane Evans on the roster at quarterback – and he has even less experience than Golson.

Unfortunately, the options aren’t great. Veteran Kevin Glenn, a former Ticat, signed with Edmonton on Monday and the only other experienced veteran is Darian Durant, who has been released by Montreal. After that, we’re talking about pending free agents like Drew Willy and Dan LeFevour.

3. Figure out their ratio

Based on their roster at the moment, the Ticats have five of their Canadian starters locked down: offensive linemen Brandon Revenberg, Mike Filer and Ryan Bomben will all be back, as will receiver Shamawd Chambers and safety Courtney Stephen. The team has plenty of depth in those spots as well, which is nice.

But that still leaves the team needing two more starters. Defensive tackle Ted Laurent and defensive end Justin Capicciotti are both set to be free agents in February and their departure would leave the Ticats with precious little experience at those spots: as well as they played in their rookie seasons, it would be a lot to ask tackle Justin Vaughn and end Connor McGough to start as sophomore’s.

How the Ticats plan to fill those remaining two Canadian spots will dictate much of their off-season approach.

4. Lock up some pending free agents

With free agency set to open at noon on Feb. 13, the Ticats still have some time to get some of their own guys back under contract. Masoli and Banks were big gets, to be sure, but there are a couple of useful pieces Hamilton may want to repatriate.

Laurent and Capicciotti, the two Canadian starters we just mentioned, would be obvious candidates but both may want to see what they can get on the open market – there are plenty of nationals set to be available but few with the proven track record of this duo.

Receivers Luke Tasker and Andy Fantuz have been fan favourites (not to mention productive) but how they fit in Jones’ speed-focussed offence is an open question.

But middle linebacker Larry Dean, left tackle Tony Washington, national fullback C.O. Prime and Canadian linebacker Nick Shortill are four guys that Hamilton could likely use – at the right price.

5. Address some needs

While the Ticats certainly showed improvement over the latter half of 2017, finishing 6-4 in their last 10, the club still has question marks in some key areas.

While Kenny Allen looked good in limited action, whether he’s a bona-fide CFL kicker remains an open question. The defensive secondary was unsettled for much of the season – only Richard Leonard started all 18 games – and there will be a big hole in the middle if Dean goes elsewhere. Whether Abdul Kanneh can play a full season at SAM – he’s undersized for the role – is a concern as well.

The Ticats have a coach, a quarterback and their big-play guy – and all were questions marks when last season was ending. But if they hope to return to relevancy in the East Division in 2018, there’s still some work to be done.

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.
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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.

46 Comments on Five things still on the Ticats to-do list

  1. better get to work, and quick

  2. What I find outrageous is Drew’s use of the term outrageous. The debate here is what is the value of 14 appearances in the NFL over 2 years with 8 as a starter, 2 wins for a team that won just 1 in the 2 years since he left, and a franchise record single game rushing record for a QB against KC 2015 (watch highlights on youtube). Manziels agent is saying at least as much as a guy who was 0-8 as a starter last year. Others are saying the NFL does not count that the extra man, less down, and wider field makes his experience irrelevant. To me that last argument is silly. The NFL is a stronger league and it is the same basic game with helmets, pads, and forward pass. The rules differences are no greater than the differences between the various Rugby codes. It is still the same basic game with no helmet, no pads and no forward pass. Pro Rugby players move seamlessly between Rugby Union, league and Sevens in the major Rugby countries such as Australia, England, Italy, France, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa. The salary differences are not as great between those Rugby codes as they are between the CFL and NFL codes. Perhaps that is the biggest difference in Helmet Football codes versus the difference in Rugby codes.

    The only relevant apples to apples comparison for a QB with NFL experience coming up here is Doug Flutie who was less successful in the NFL than Manziel was and was essentially blackballed because he was a union scab. Faragamo and Young were way out of prime, and Troy Smith hardly played in the NFL. With no cap FLutie was the highest payed guy with no CFL experience in 1990. Does lightning strike twice. Who knows but at least be accurate in your comparisons that is apples to apples. As a reminder both Flutie and Manziel had these in common..Short, Heisman, multi year NFL with some starts, hurt by personal choices not related to play, no prior CFL experience. Keep in mind the Texas [email protected] offence was pretty much what June Jones is running as was Masoli’s offence at Oregon.

    • correction.. I meant to say use of the word outlandish by Drew is outlandish.

      • His nfl experience is actually a hindrance not a help to his cfl value

        • be more specific. I am also a Browns fan as I grew up on Lake Erie a short crows fly from Cleveland and i watched every appearance. His play was pretty decent in his second year with occasional flashes of brilliance it was the drinking, drugs, and girlfriend issues that got him canned. Otherwise he would be still playing. Flutie was worse in the NFL his first go round and burned his bridges by crossing picket lines.

      • Outlandish, ridiculous or whatever else … some thing it is and some think it isn’t.

        Keep in mind that Cats brass may be reluctant to spend a ton of money after throwing away a ton on Collaros.

    • … and Flutie without two years away from footbal or off field issues had a losing first season.

      Repeat the potential all you want … nothing is guaranteed – success, mediocre or failure.

    • Stop saying Doug Flutie was a union scab. He played the remainder of the 1987 season with the New England Patriots then all of the 1988 and 1989 seasons with the Pats too. Joe Montana crossed the picket lines, and you don’t hear anyone begrudging him for that. Or Steve Largent. Or Randy White.

      He was not signed after his release because teams at that time didn’t believe in a 5’9″ quarterback. Another victim on the NFL’s size template.

      • Whether he was 6’9″ or 5’9″, Flutie’s NFL production at that point did not warrant anybody believing in him.

    • Is Flutie the only relevant comparison?

      Heisman winner Andre Ware was a #1 NFL draft pick for the Lions. He appeared in 14 NFL games over four years.

      He lasted three years in the CFL, without making it back to the NFL then was in NFL Europe. He never made it back to the NFL.

    • Marko: Just because you’re not aware of all the QBs with NFL experience who failed in the CFL, does not erase the fact that there have been many. As in, lots. It happens all the time.

    • Vince Ferragamo was not past his prime. He was 27 then. What happened with Ferragamo is that he was a backup, got inserted as a starter in 1979 because of injuries, and the team makes it to the Super Bow that year. In 1980, he throws 30 TD’s and wants a big raise in the offseason. Rams would not pay what he wanted, but Montreal would. To the Rams, Ferragamo was more of a game manager who was there “not to screw up” rather than being an elite quarterback.

      Money is why a few more big name players ended up in Montreal during that ill-fated 1981 season.

  3. drew says “would go some way to quelling the constant chatter and speculation (at least for now.)” What exactly is wrong with that? It is a good thing people are debating hotly about the CFL in cold cold January. Pro football is entertainment and there is an old saying in the biz that “there is no such thing as bad publicity. It is all good. I don’t care what you say about me just spell my name correctly”.

  4. My take on things:

    1. I’m sure June Jones, in all his years of coaching, has some contact he can call to come up here and help (someone besides Art Briles).

    2. Coin flip. Manziel was a flash in the pan player who may have done all the unbelievable improv stuff at Texas A&M because he was playing under the influence (I have zero proof to back this up, but it would explain why everyone in College Station says he could never follow the game plan). We have a good stable of quarterbacks behind Masoli which brings me to 3…

    3. Sign Everett Golson. Problem solved. Everyone talks about Manziel because he’s a name player, but Golson is a better quarterback, and will have a much better and more productive CFL career than Manziel will. Once Golson is signed, we’re set at QB (I’m still not a Masoli believer, but he is what we’ve got, so I’m getting behind him).

    4. Capiciotti and Larry Dean are priorities, but I don’t think we can afford Ted laurent. the Cookie Monster is going to ask too much, and we are going to need to re-sign the other unsigned bodies we have out there. Michael Atkinson is ready to step in as a starter, and the sophomores Drew mentioned are fine on a rotational basis.

    5. If Sergio Castillo is coming back (and unless I missed a huge article, why wouldn’t he), then the kicking issues are non-issues. Move Abdul Kanneh back to halfback and put Dominique Ellis back at SAM. He did great at that spot before his injury, and Keon Lyn showed tremendous improvement before he was lost for the season. I know this is mentioning a lot of injured players, but it’s a violent sport and injuries are common, and Rico Murray is the cautionary tale about giving up too soon on a player because of their time on the DL.

    In short, if they lock up their free agents, and Coach Jones continues to solidify the in-house chemistry on this team, then the Tiger-Cats are in as good a spot as they possibly can be five months before the start of the season. I don’t know that there are that many pending free agents that can do as much to aid this team as the guys we have on board already.

  5. I agree. And I didn’t know Drew was now a part of the Ticat decision making!! Some say he would have to be a starter because he is so talented. I think it could go either way, but is far from being decided as what it will have to be!

    Also, these players come from atmospheres of constant spotlights I would guess, in their college days. Lots like putting down the circus as they call media attention. For a league that nearly went bankrupt along and seperately from a few teams almost going under, I don’t see media attention as bad!!
    Its not this “circus” that is bothering me, its everyone telling MY team what they have to do with a possible future player here. Who asked Calgary’s QB who we should sign. Did we tell them or Ottawa?
    And you, pegger, are going to hurt MY QB? Would everyone please just leave it up to the team like we always have?!! Gees!

    • Pretty sure Jones will make the decision … assuming Manziel ends up signing.

      Not sure why you are bothered by CFL fans commenting – if all publicity is good, what’s the problem with fans across the country and/or US adding to it?

      Seems weird to me to be okay with all publicity … as long as it’s not fans from other teams.

      Either way – team brass will decide, for better or mediocre or worse.

      • You are right, all publicity is good publicity. It was my wording also. I am bothered by people saying we should get rid of him (in part) because he would bring a media circus. In addition to this being a likely good thing, so is all of the passion commenting on it, in any way! I stand corrected!

  6. Philip Nicholson // January 17, 2018 at 11:26 am //

    Love Fantuz, but I think, with injuries and age, it’s time to let him go. Maybe he will move upstairs and coach or manage…

  7. Why is Fantuz listed as a pending free agent in this article when he is not listed as a free agent on CFL.ca?

    For all the people saying the team should move on for Ted Laurent in favour of Michael Atkinson, look at Atkinson’s track record of staying health, he physically can not do it. Laurent should be the number one priority, followed by Capicciotti, Dean, Tasker and Washington.

    I’d let Everett Golson walk, he has the same problem as Jacory Harris, his arm simply isnt strong enough to play on the Canadian field.

  8. The two national receiver policy must be dropped to reap the full benefit of the Jone’s offense.The two national receiver policy diminished the ability of Collaros and help lead to trading him away.With no running game and one receiver that was rarely used the Cat offense became predicable.

  9. Johnny Manziel is no Doug Flutie !!

  10. Scottsask // January 17, 2018 at 1:55 pm //

    What happened to Justin Capiciotti, he looked unstoppable in Ottawa. When the Riders signed him I thought it was great, a Canadian that can also play at an elite level. Although it turns out the defensive scheme didn’t seem to suit him in Saskatchewan or he wouldn’t buy it are debatable points. He’s been the invisible man ever since. I stand to be corrected if any one can enlighten me.

  11. Marko I ageee with you re Drew Edwards comments. He has being extremely negative on Johnny Manziel from the start.

    June Jones knows the talent he will get if contract is signed with Johnny Manziel. Johnny Manziel is biikt for and understands June Jones offence. The extra man in cfl is an extra man to pass to and a mobile quarter back will handle himself re the extra defensive back. The one yard rule will benefit Manziel. The shorter time clock between plays is simple for Manziel as he ran plays without huddles most of his career. The three down is nothing for Manziel or the wider and longer field as matter of fact advantage Manziel given his ability to run and onebof the best passers on the run. So which part is difficult for Manziel coming here. Manziel has played in June Jones offence at Texas A&M for 1.5 years longer than mazoli.

    Does drew Edwards have more qualifications to come on Johnny Manziel as a starter than Bo Levi Mitchell. I THINK NOT. Read Bo’s comments. On how he sees Manziel with his talent being a starter given he can walk into June Jones system. Please take time to read his comments drew Edwards.

    PS. Doug Flutie did. Or come out of university as much hype as Johnny football. Let’s be clear on that.

    Marko again good comments

    • Insightful and well put! You’d think most people would at least have an open mind regarding how he may do when looking at your comment.

    • The problem is that the Cats need Manziel as the back up passer while his agent suggests he is to be the starter and wants a starter’s salary that the Cats can not afford.As Bo Levi Mitchell says if you pay him 300,000, which the Cats can not afford, dictates that MANZIEL would have to be the starter.The only conclusion is that it is not possible for Manziel to join Hamilton or perhaps any CFL team until he drastically lowers his salary expectations.

  12. Plus Doug Flutie did not come to cfl under coach that ran the type of offence tailor made for him hence the growing pains the first year

  13. Stamepeders should pay attention and they might learn something about winning it all. Remember when the Cats got robbed of that Grey cup? Stumps are pathetic.

    • richinbanff (Rich Wilson) // January 17, 2018 at 8:17 pm //

      I’m a Cat fan. They didn’t get robbed, they broke the rules and got penalized for it. For the last time, it was an obvious penalty.

  14. Why is everyone on here saying Flutie was not successful in his first year he only started 8 games and threw for 2,960 yards pro-rated over 18 games he would have thrown for around 6,400 yards yes maybe his completion % could have been a little better but if he was in there all season that still would be a very good year plus he obviously showed enough to come in as the starter in year two Oh by the way he won the MOP and that”s what you would be getting Manziel for a two year deal Manziel”s college numbers are way better than Flutie”s (Flutie 4 seasons 10,500 Comp%53)(Manziel 2 seasons 7,800 Comp%68)Besides Manziel is bigger stonger and faster the only question is he serious,motivated and has matured enough to keep his shit together.

  15. Flutie was signed in June then started the first game of season.

    Do you really think owner Pezim thought the Lions would end up with only six wins eleven losses and one tie? In addition, Flutie threw more INTs than TDs.

    If he was “successful” – why didn’t he play more instead of splitting time with QBs Paopao and Harris?

    BTW … Flutie says he signed a standard CFL player contract for $150K, a personal services deal for $165K, where any additional funds was bonus money.

  16. Flutie ‘earned’ his money because of the publicity her brought. You could say that Flutie saved the CFL. We don’t need Manziel to save the league . Unless he plays well , he may do more harm than good

  17. Listen Cat Fan He was there for all 16 games yes (last season before switch to 18) but he only started 8 games and he won the CFL MOP in his second season and I never mention salary and I do not think you should care What he was paid.If you are a Cat Fan you should be more concern that last year you paid Collaros more then Reilly,Ray and he was coming off a torn ACL when he signed that Deal the same Guy who over paid Collaros is in charge and your Team just anointed Roly-Poly-Masoli your starting QB just 2 seasonsago he was a 4 stringer and the Cats are a complete mess and you are in a 9 team league and you have not won shit since 1999 and you are seriously worried if they pay Manziel two hundred thousand or four hundred thousand besides the guy you tasked to save your Team Coach June Jones after watching Manziel work out stated publicly that Manziel processes the kind of ability in his opinion that Manziel could be the greatest QB to play in the CFL(that is a huge big if)So Cat Fan do you believe in your new Head Coach or not.If you do should you not want Manziel at any cost and if you do not have faith in June Jones why in the Hell did the Cats hire him?

    • Weird that wiki says the 1990 season was 18 games. Weirder still that the Canadian Encyclopedia says the CFL switched to an eighteen game schedule in 1986.

      Does this mean Flutie is off by about five years that he signed/played in 1990?

      The salary comments were more meant for those who bring up Flutie as the only comparable (ignoring Ware), with the argument that adjusting to time, playing Manziel about $600K in salary would be about right.

      All your points about Collaros as well as Austin still being involved with contracts are why some Cat fans are commenting on Manziel’s agents statement that seems to say Manziel would be in the same ball park as Collaros used to be paid.

      I don’t want Manziel at top cost, as all salary, with no ties to performance as that seems a repeat of the Collaros contract mistake. It also makes it more difficult to add talent in a salary cap environment.

      LoL … good to know that what the Cat owner/brass thinks of Jones takes a back seat to whether I as a fan believe in Jones and/or what he thinks of Manziel.

  18. Bigplay. Well articulated comments.

  19. Jones may be bidding up Manziel as trade bate.The real target may to save money to get Zylstra, as receiver, if he does not succeed in the NFL.Never give away your plans;the first rule of football warfare.

  20. Listen Cat Fan with fans like you no wonder the Cats are the Door Mats of the CFL my point is you guys spend every day bashing Johnny Football but who you have had playing QB has not got you no where you also bad mouth Manziel for having brushes with the law when Masoli and Collaros had brushes with law.I am not a Austin Fan but he publicly stated how great Manziel”s college tape was and said he looked great in his work out then your new Head Coach says how good his work out was and states a belief how special Manziel could be and you guys are just running him down for everything from his ability to his indiscretions to his contract demands every time I am on this site! I can promise you Masoli may be a serviceable QB and you might win some games and be in the Playoffs but you are not going to be a elite Team or Win Championships so why not lay off Manziel hope the deal gets done hope he has got his shit together and works his ass off hope June is right about the level of his talent and just maybe you and your favourite team ends a 18 year ridiculous Grey Cup drought or just keep Bashing Manziel for What being a young foolish kid who F—d up then celebrate a 8,9 oh my god maybe a 10 win season with Masoli.Then keep talking about how you were one call away from winning the 2015 Cup and before you go to bed each night pray to who ever it is you worship and thank him for being in a 9 team league that includes the Bombers.

    • richinbanff (Rich Wilson) // January 17, 2018 at 8:29 pm //

      This is the longest sentence I have ever read. You misunderstand, most people do not like to be held hostage. Manziel’s agent is correct in stating his client’s displeasure in being held hostage by the neg list system. Their response indicates it quite clearly. The salary demand and deadline part is an attempt to hold the team and its fans hostage in return. This is not a good look, and it is not surprising that Ticat fans have reacted accordingly. I feel Manziel deserves a chance, but asking to be the highest paid player in the league is the pinnacle of outlandishness. If he was actually serious about playing football he would have already signed. This has been a marketing ploy by the Manziel camp.

    • Not sure how being skeptical that Manziel will be focused or impress Jones enough to start as quickly as some think is bashing Manziel. Assuming a signing happens, Jones will decide – regardless of whatever opinions are posted.

      I guess it is frustration on your part to focus on the comments from others instead of what I have written or to argue that fan comments in the off season affects game results.

      Interesting that you see less potential in Mazoli than Jones does.

      The Cats have blown $500K or more a season on Collaros and Printers to replace the injured/ineffective Maas so there is a history of big $$ with pathetic results in the win column.

  21. @bigplay just for the record like most of what you said . But i do believe Masoli can and will be an elite qb under Jones and I don’t think manziels head is in it enough to come down here and turn his career around . I’m not bashing him just stating my opinion

  22. Adam, I disagree about Ted Laurent. He will be looking for big money. I think Justin Vaughan is ready and he comes a lot cheaper than Ted. Cappicotti, Tasker and Shorthill are must signs. There was a quarterback Matt Johnson who incurred a season ending injury in a preseason game in Ottawa last year who I would also love to see them bring back. He had some promise.

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