Terrence Toliver is officially one of the cool kids.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats officially announced a contract extension for the lanky receiver on Monday, locking him up for the next two seasons. It latest in a string of signings by vice-president of football operations and head coach Kent Austin aimed at building a nucleus of talent for the club, veteran players who have proved their mettle both on the field and in locker room.
On that list: quarterbacks Zach Collaros and Jeremiah Masoli, linebacker Simoni Lawrence, receivers Luke Tasker and Brandon Banks, defensive backs Craig Butler and Courtney Stephen, defensive tackle Ted Laurent, offensive linemen Mike Filer and Ryan Bomben.
And now Toliver.
“Without a doubt. We want consistency and continuity, especially with really good players, players that understand the culture here,” Austin said. “The core players that are important to our success we want to make sure we do everything we can to keep those guys. Terrence has done a great job learning the offence, he’s a good teammate, he’s a pro.”
The 28-year-old has played two seasons with the Ticats and had his best year in 2016, making 65 receptions for 1,036 yards and nine touchdowns despite playing in only 13 games. At 6-foot-5, he presents a match up problem for the typically under-sized CFL defensive back and has evolved from a boundary wide receiver to a guy who play multiple spots in Austin’s offence.
“You have to learn the waggle, how you fit in the offence whether you’re playing W, the F, the X, the Y, the Z… it’s tough,” Toliver said. “It’s my third year and I don’t know everything, still learning.”
Toliver was set to hit free agency for the first time in his CFL career on Tuesday and many players of his age and skillset will often try for one more NFL shot. Toliver spent time with five different NFL teams before coming to Canada – he says he got some looks this winter as well – but has decided that he wants to finish his career playing three-down ball.
“I am ruling it out. I did my time in the NFL and had some looks this year but I wanted to be where I was comfortable,” he said. “I thought the CFL was a great league for me and if I went back to the NFL I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing. It’s more relaxing, the NFL is a little uptight.”
Toliver’s deal is reported to be in the $150,000 per year range and includes some play time and performance incentives, not surprising given that he’s missed 10 games due to injury during his time with the Ticats. That’s good CFL money but potentially less than he might have gotten had he elected to hit the open market. But like a number of the core group Austin’s assembled, he took a less to stay in Hamilton.
“I was one of the priorities and I felt that,” he said. “I believe that you have to earn your spot on this team and I believe that I’ve done that.”
Notes: The Ticats have agreed to terms with Canadian receiver Giovanni Aprile,. The 27-year-old was set to become a free agent on Tuesday but instead elected to stay in Hamilton, where he has spent the last three seasons. He was originally acquired in a 2014 trade with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for defensive back Matt Bucknor. Aprile played in eight games last season, making one catch and adding four special teams tackles. He provides veteran Canadian depth at a key spot for the Ticats – they’ve started two nationals at receiver for much of the last few seasons – and may see his role expand next season with the injury to Andy Fantuz (who is a pending free agent.)…Austin said the team is working hard to re-sign Fantuz, who suffered a torn ACL in October. “We’re trying to do something creative with Andy,” Austin said. “He’s going to be out awhile but we certainly want him back, we think he’s a valuable member of our football team so we’re working trough those issues.”… expect all-star defensive back Emanuel Davis to explore free agency, though both sides remain open to a return to Hamilton.