The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have reportedly re-signed one of their big-name Canadian free-agents-to-be but may be on the verge of losing another.
Sources say Canadian defensive back Courtney Stephen has inked a three-year contract extension with the club. A Brampton native, Stephen has started 45 regular-season games in three seasons with Hamilton after being drafted No. 8 overall in the 2012 CFL Draft. The news was first reported by 3DownNation.com’s Justin Dunk.
The 26-year-old can play both safety and corner and his return helps the Ticats solidify their Canadian content and at a reasonable price: sources say Stephen’s new deal is reportedly similar to the three-year contract extension signed by another Canadian safety, Jermaine Gabriel of the Toronto Argonauts, which pays him an average of $175,000 a season.
Stephen was scheduled to become a free agent on Feb. 9, along with several other key Canadian starters, including defensive end Ted Laurent and receiver Andy Fantuz.
Sources say Laurent is determined to test the free agent market and may be asking for a contract in the $300,000 per year range — a number that would make him the highest paid non-quarterback in the CFL. Several teams are expected to be interested, particularly the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Laurent is also said to be interested in pursuing NFL opportunities, should they arise.
Meanwhile, the Ticats are said to be interested in Eskimos receiver Shamawd Chambers, who is expected to hit the open market on Tuesday. The Toronto native has 112 catches over four CFL seasons and is good friends with Hamilton linebacker Simoni Lawrence.
The team has also reportedly re-signed offensive lineman Jeremy Lewis, another pending free agent. Lewis, who tweeted the news on Sunday, has played in 25 games over two years with the club, including 15 starts last season.