Chick signing not without its question marks

It is finally official: John Chick is a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The talented defensive end who was released by the Saskatchewan Roughriders back on January 14 has signed a two-year deal with the Ticats.

This is not the first time the Ticats have flirted with Chick. Back in 2013 when Chick was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars and was looking to make his return to the CFL, he narrowed his options down to two teams: Hamilton and Saskatchewan. Chick ultimately decided to return to the only football home he knew in Canada, but the Ticats were interested in acquiring his services at the time.

His return to the CFL was fairly good, as he was a key cog in helping the Riders win just their fourth championship in team history in 2013, coincidently beating the Tiger-Cats. He continued his stellar CFL career by being named a league all-star in 2014.

But 2015 was hardly a banner year for anyone wearing green and white. Chick’s numbers declined, though he still put up a respectable 11 sacks, good for fifth in the league, despite playing on what was the league’s worst defense and having very little help on his side of the ball. The new Chris Jones regime did not think Chick, and his salary, was needed on the team, so they opted to let him go.

Enter the Ticats… again. Three years after trying to get Chick to relocate, they finally get their man.

But three years is a long time in football, and while Chick is undoubtedly still a good player, this move does not come without its fair share of question marks.

For starters, Chick is 33. While not old by any means, he is still much closer to the end of his career than he is the beginning. How much does he have left in the tank? That all-star year in 2014 was buttressed by a magnificent start, but his production dipped in the latter half of the season. Then last year he was invisible in a few games, so it is fair to say to wonder if perhaps Chick is no longer the elite pass rusher he was two years ago.

Chick’s signing also means we have likely seen the last of Justin Hickman in a Tiger-Cats uniform. With Eric Norwood getting a contract extension last winter, and the team now signing Chick, there does not look to be much room left for Hickman on the team’s roster. Norwood is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the East Semi-Final against the Toronto Argonauts and will likely miss most, if not all, of the 2016 season, so perhaps Hickman is still in the team’s plans, but it seems unlikely. Hickman is going to command a pretty big contract, and despite Norwood’s salary not counting against the cap while he recovers from his injury, it seems like the signing of Chick is an indication the team is ready to part ways with Hickman.

And while many will see Chick as an upgrade over Hickman, that’s not necessarily the case. Hickman certainly has had his ups and downs since returning to Hamilton from the NFL back in the fall of 2014, but are Chick’s stats really that much better? Our super stats man here at 3DownNation, Mark Fulton, whipped up this handy chart that reveals something very interesting about the two.CZkqJxIVAAEpg-E.png-largeAs you can see, the year-by-year numbers are not that much different. Take from that what you will.

Chick is without a doubt one of the best pass rushers the league has seen over the last decade, but whether he is still that player remains to be seen.

The Ticats got themselves a great player, but one who comes with a lot of questions, none of which will be answered until he finally takes the field in black and gold in June.

Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.