What the Ticats might do in free agency

During the Kent Austin era – and we’re now entering year six – Hamilton has largely focussed on re-signing their own players and adding a key veteran piece or two over spending large amounts of valuable cap space on a big-name guy in CFL free agency. With a free agent class that’s been thinned by a number of players re-upping, that’s unlikely to change when the market opens next Tuesday.

Which isn’t to say the Ticats don’t have a few holes to fill. The club has made it clear they are trying to re-sign a few pending free agents, including receiver Luke Tasker, Canadian defensive tackle Ted Laurent and linebacker Larry Dean and the outcome of those negotiations will obviously impact the team’s strategy next week.

Should he hit the market, Laurent will draw considerable interest as a supremely talented Canadian player. He’s still only 30 and while he missed six games last year with a hamstring injury, he’s been generally durable over his career. The Ticats are likely hoping to bring down his salary from the $250,000 or so he’s been making the last couple seasons but a team like the Alouettes, desperate as they are for Canadian talent, might be willing to back up the Brinks truck to bring in a guy with Montreal roots.

Laurent went to free agency two years ago before ultimately re-signing with the Ticats and a similar scenario may play out here as he gets a sense of what the market truly is for his services.

Tasker and Dean may elect to do the same. The going rate for premier American receivers – and Tasker is 27 with two 1,000-yard seasons on his resume – is often in the $200,000 range but Hamilton may be hoping for a discount in light of Tasker’s stated preference of staying close to his Buffalo home. Still, with S.J. Green, Adarius Bowman and Diontae Spencer all signed, Tasker is the best receiver left on the board and that could improve his value if he’s willing to test the market.

Dean’s situation is somewhat different. Coming off his cheap rookie deal, Dean may be looking to cash in but there are a number of American middle linebackers slated to be available, including Bear Woods, Taylor Reed and Deron Mayo and that’s likely to drive down the going rate.

Beyond middle linebacker – and again, that problem is solved if Dean re-signs before Tuesday – here are three other spots the Ticats may look to address in free agency.

SAM linebacker

This has been a trouble spot since the departure of Erik Harris two seasons ago as the team has cycled multiple players without finding a permanent solution. They finished last season with Abdul Kanneh in the role and while he plays with the appropriate level of ferocity, he’s undersized and likely better suited to his old halfback spot.

There are some players with experience at this position – a tough one because it requires the cover skills of a defensive back with the run-stuffing ability of a linebacker – set to become available. Otha Foster, who has played 54 games over four seasons with Edmonton and Saskatchewan, is the best of the bunch but B.C.’s Chandler Fenner or Ottawa’s Jerrell Gavins might also be a fit.

Defensive back

The defensive secondary improved steadily after an extremely rough start to the 2017 season and most of the key pieces, including all-star halfback Richard Leonard and Canadian safety Courtney Stephen are slated to return. But the release of Emanuel Davis, who fell out of favour with the coaching staff, means the team could dip into a deep free agent class for some help.

Aaron Grymes and  Tommie Campbell are the best of the bunch but both are expected to re-sign with their existing teams. Mitchell White is an excellent player while T.J. Heath can play halfback as well as corner. Other possibilities include B.C.’s Ronnie Yell and Toronto’s Akwasi Owusu-Ansah.

Running back

This is a bit of an out-of-the-box suggestion but if Laurent does leave via free agency, the Ticats will be in the market for another Canadian starter. They would have several options – and that’s before a CFL Draft that sees them stacked with picks – including using a national at the running back position.

The team already has Mercer Timmis and Sean Thomas-Erlington in place and the addition of veteran Jerome Messam – a Toronto native who Calgary has said they won’t be re-signing before free agency begins – or Kienan LaFrance would turn running back into a ratio-breaking spot. They’d both be cheaper than Laurent as well.

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 (1526 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.

42 Comments on What the Ticats might do in free agency

  1. They’d be smart to sign Manziel for starters

  2. The Iceman // February 9, 2018 at 4:47 pm //

    I like the idea of going All National at RB if Timmis is ready to go. Not sure that Messam fits the bill of what JJ looks for in a RB but who knows?? There are no RBs at the top of this years draft board.

  3. Paul Smith // February 9, 2018 at 4:50 pm //

    Jim, why do you make such a claim? It’s clear the team is more than prepared to move on from this “opportunity”.

  4. Tasker is not worth 200,000. Bowman signed in Wpg for $140,000 so Tasker should be $125K at best

  5. Tasker is definitely worth the money and so is Dean. Would not lose any sleep over Laurent play 2 or 3 plays then sit out a couple. Lose some weight or get into shape. Taylor Reed ex TiCat. Typical TC lowball all their good players. Every year it’s the same low ball and they leave. I am not expecting anything better than last years team especially if they lose Tasker and Dean. Leonard will probably leave next tear with the rest.

    • Having the highest paid quarterback and keeping Laurent hardly fit the description of a team that lowballs the talented players.

    • The team has re-signed plenty of quality players during the Austin era. Masoli’s first re-signing 2 years ago, Simoni Lawrence, Courtney Stephen, Ryan Bomben, Mike Filer, Andy Fantuz, Terrence Toliver before last season, and Laurent a couple years ago as Cisco Kid noted.

      The Ticats are no different than any other team. Some guys leave, but many whom the team values do stay.

  6. Hope the Ticats aim to sign Dean and aren’t even considering the bonehead Grey Cup player Reed.

  7. Looks to me like Austin is still carrying on the way he has always done with his trades.In past seasons he wanted players who would fit his “plan”.We all know what a disaster his plan turned out to be.
    Nothing exciting going on as far as I can see. Still looks like a 3rd place team to me.

    • Ticat Mike // February 10, 2018 at 5:37 pm //

      agree completely. team needs a major rebuild. talent evaluation, recruitment and development are lacking.

  8. Mr62cats,go educate yourself about what Austin has done for the Ticats in 5 yrs

  9. I hope the Ticats are able to sign Laurent, Tasker and Dean. They’re outstanding players.

  10. Todd if you are referring to the heady days of the Grey Cup appearances, that is now history. Doesn’t matter any more.
    What matters is the mess he made of this team in 2016 and 2017. And if you were paying attention to our O-line at the time you can’t blame it on Collaros.
    What was KA doing when he was ready to hire Briles and had to be bailed out by the Caretaker. This Manziel deal is another mess that needs to be ended.
    Do you think we will be a first place Eastern Division team this coming season? Or second?

    • see thats just goes to prove how uninformed you are…it was mostly the QBs dfault as the O line gave him about average time to get the ball out of his hands.

      the prob was is that Zach couldnt adjust to defenses who constantly showed him different looks and exposed hi lack of reaction to pressure.

      next time instead of listening to TSN watch the game yourself

      • Peter North // February 10, 2018 at 3:44 pm //

        That o-line was brutal the 1st half of last season. When they inserted Washington and Ryker Mathews into the starting lineup things improved tremendously.

        Zack was poor but the o-line in front of him was bad.

        • they werent that good in the first half ill agree however Collaros held on to the ball far too often and over two thirds of his sacks and pressure were to blame for his observation of the schemes that were set against him.

          in other words he was slow to recognize pressure…A decent OL will give you 3 or 4 seconds and thats what he got.

      • Obviously I completely disagree with your assessment.You must be a Collaros hater. I guess the test for Collaros will be the upcoming season when we will see how he does under a different coaching system.
        None of that matters anymore in Hamilton. We are still stuck in the past. June Jones and Jeremiah Masoli are short term, band-aid solutions.
        I’ll say it again. This team needs to clean house ASAP.It’s time. No big deal. All teams (maybe not Calgary because they have a long team view of things along with constant improvement) need to do it to some degree.

        • Nope you are wrong ..I just noticed what others would not do and that is question the Zack’s deteriorating skills..it was obvious yet the easy thing to do is blame others

          why do you think he is out of town now,,,Jones wouldnt say it so he could get something for him.

          youll see this year

  11. The lesson from last season is that it took a terrible toll on receivers on every team.The Cats need to get depth with receivers.Juron Criner a free agent in Ottawa would be a great grab for the Cats.Remember, the Cats suffered from a lot of receivers that could not hold onto the ball and Toliver whom suffered a season ending injury.

  12. Ticats should be all over Nik Demski. Would be an incredible pickup and something sorely needed. Our Canadian receiving pool needs to be rebuilt and this would be a wonderful step in that direction.

    • He’d be a good pickup. Though I think Chambers and Faubert-Lussier will do well this year. I haven’t looked at the draft rankings yet but I expect we’ll select one or two receivers. Our depth is a bit suspect, unless Jones can turn things around and Scarfone turns out to have been a 6th round sleeper from last draft. Aprile is a decent ST player but I don’t see him as more than that.

  13. albermsrle // February 9, 2018 at 9:04 pm //

    Laurent and Tasker are not worth that kind of money. It should free up money for other guys. They need to keep Dean

  14. Get Tasker and Dean signed! We can replace Laurent.

  15. Other FAs that intrigue me, beyond Drew’s notables:
    – DT Euclid Cummings (another Laurent replacement option)
    – FB Alexandre Dupuis (Prime remains un-re-signed)
    – RB/KR Roy Finch (the dude has wheels… Speedy-B will be primarily an offensive weapon for sure)
    – DB Kevin Fogg (good player)
    – P/K Lirim Hajrullahu (Castillo will be out a while, Allen was pretty good but is he a long-term solution?)
    – WR Anthony Parker (another decent national)
    – DT Daryl Waud (if we don’t re-sign Laurent, is the local boy worth a look?)
    – RB Anthony Woodson (probably not a need with Timmis and Thomas-Erlington, but he was an asset in his first go-round with the Cats and I think he would be again)

    • Banks and Finch together as receivers would be throwing an accelerant on the run and shoot offense.Finch would be worth the reckless tossing of cash to obtain because the Cats could be invincible with that pair!

  16. You guys should put your resumes in for Austin’s job …hahahaha

  17. LOL MSD, you left a name off your list that will be high in the Ticat’s priorities. Beyond Demski, I see them taking a definite run at Jamaal Westerman especially if Laurent moves on which I anticipate.

    • I actually thought about it, but he’s getting a bit old now and not the right size to play inside. With Capicciotti re-signed and our younger Canadian ends I don’t think we need another one.

  18. Un, at RB, is Alex Green not the next heir apparent? Looked pretty good last year.

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