The Hamilton Tiger-Cats made their final cuts on Saturday night. Here’s what those moves mean along with some comments from general manager and head coach Kent Austin.
1. There were no huge surprises, just a few mild ones. The team released Canadian receiver S.J. Haidara after acquiring him in an off-season trade with the B.C. Lions that cost Hamilton a fifth round pick and a player from their negotiation list. Also gone are defensive end Sam Scott, who played in nine games over two seasons and offensive lineman Carson Rockhill was originally drafted by the club 13th overall in 2012 and played in three games last season.
Quote: “It’s the worst part of the job, by far. You’re affecting lives. When it becomes easy I probably need to get out of the sport.”
2. While there are some new faces, the majority of last season’s squad remains intact. Of the 46 players on the roster for last season’s Grey Cup game, 42 are still with the team in some capacity (though several are injured.) Of the players currently on the active roster, 36 were with the club last season.
Quote: “We’ve been working towards some level of consistency and continuity and the good news is a number of our younger players have played a lot. We feel good about where we’re at.”
3. After a terrific training camp and a strong showing in the first pre-season game, rookie Jeff Mathews begins the season as the back up quarterback behind starter Zach Collaros. Jeremiah Masoli has been added to the one-game injured list so that means Jacory Harris will take on the No. 3 role for now.
Quote: “I coached Mathews for three years and saw what he accomplished at Cornell. He’s real good player and he has a great understanding of what we do.”
4. Receiver Luke Tasker, running back C.J. Gable, offensive tackle Joel Figueroa and halfback Rico Murray have been added to the one-game injured list which means they are out for the week one match up versus the Calgary Stampeders. Austin said they still don’t know how long Tasker, the team’s leading receiver last season, will be out but points out that he’s only on the one-game injured list.
Quote: “I don’t think it’s going to be a super long-term scenario.”
5. There’s still come uncertainty in the secondary. With the departure of all-star corner Delvin Breaux to the NFL and the injury to Murray, the Ticats are missing two starters from last season’s defensive backfield. Julian Posey, who started at halfback against Winnipeg after spending the week with the first team defence, has been released. Potential solutions include newly-signed Johnny Sears, who sat out last week due to injury, or veteran Brandon Stewart.
Quote: “We have an idea of how we’re going to piece that together this week but we’re going to look at every position, every week.”
6. Austin says the final roster decisions are made with input from the coaching staff and the player personnel department. Austin says that he also has to take into consideration his job as general manager, which includes managing the salary cap and planning for the future. He delivers the news to each released played personally.
Quote: “In the vast majority of cases there is usually consensus. Sometimes there’s not, it’s a difficult choice and there are some splits in opinion. At the end of the day, the buck stops with me.”
7. Kicker Justin Medlock is going to need to train a new holder – and fast. Tasker performed the job for most of last season while linebacker and long snapper Kyle Miller filled in last week in Winnipeg but is now on the six-game injured list. Medlock, who is notoriously fussy about his “operation” will need to get someone new up to speed quickly. Potential options include receiver Andy Fantuz and back up quarterback Jeff Mathews.
8. There could still be changes for week one. While players on the one-game injured list must sit out against Calgary, the team could still move a player from the practice roster to the active roster in time for Friday’s match up against Calgary.
9. There were a number of former Ticat players released over the weekend, including linebacker Nathan Kanya, and offensive lineman Brian Ramsay (Esks), offensive lineman Marc Dile (Bombers), defensive tackle Demonte Bolden (Stamps), defensive back Geoff Tisdale (Als) and running back Sam Ojuri (Riders)… Two of three players taken in the CFL Draft after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs at the combine were cut. Only Jonathan Langa, a linebacker with the Ticats, remains on a roster… former Ticat receiver Dave Stala has signed a practice roster agreement with the Toronto Argonauts.
10. Finally, here is my projected depth chart as the roster stands now. There is some guess work here, particularly in the secondary, and this isn’t necessarily the 46 players who will be on the roster against Calgary (see No. 9.) For example, I could seem them adding a stronger special teams player such as linebacker Dan Molls instead of defensive tackle Drake Nevis. And I’m still not convinced it won’t be Ray Holley over Nic Grigsby at running back.