Ticats shore up secondary on day one of free agency

The opening day of free agency is pretty much in the books and you would be hard pressed to find a Ticats fan who wasn’t happy with what the team did.

The secondary was an area of concern for the entire 2016 season, and the Ticats went about addressing that area by signing Abdul Kanneh and re-signing Emanuel Davis.

Getting Kanneh was a major coup for the Ticats. He was considered one of the top defensive back available, and with the Ticats desperately needing a talent infusion there, they made the splash and brought Kanneh over from Ottawa. The team will also get Craig Butler and Demond Washington back from injury, which should help improve the secondary, but adding a player of Kanneh’s caliber shows the team was not willing to just stand pat. It is also never bad to improve your team while also hurting a division rival, so Kanneh’s signing had double the impact.

As great as Kanneh’s signing was, getting Davis back was equally as big. As bad as Hamilton’s secondary was in 2016, Davis was a bright spot. He was an East Division All-Star for the second consecutive season, and finished third in the league in interceptions with five. He has been the ball hawk amongst the DBs, so getting him back is huge for the Ticats. After a season in which they rotated what felt like a million players in and out of the secondary, the starting five for the Ticats in 2017 is looking like Kanneh, Davis, Courtney Stephen, Craig Butler and Demond Washington. What was the team’s biggest weakness looks like it just became a strength.

While the Ticats were busy getting their defensive backfield in order, a few now-former Ticats left to sign elsewhere. Defensive tackle Drake Nevis and receiver Matt Coates left for Winnipeg, while quarterback Jeff Mathews signed with Toronto and fellow QB Jacory Harris is set to sign with the Alouettes. None of the four losses are really that significant. Nevis is a good player, but the Ticats have a stockpile of defensive tackles (Ted Laurent, Michael Atkinson, Evan Gill, Delano Johnson) and have had a knack for finding unknowns at that position (no CFL fan really knew who Nevis or Bryan Hall, who Nevis took over for, were before signing with the Ticats). It is a good get for the Bombers, but not a death knell for the Ticats.

Coates is another player that I would have liked to stay — I said as much back when the free agent list was released — but with the Ticats likely to go with just one Canadian receiver, the need to keep Coates wasn’t great. Spencer Watt should be penned in as a starter, with Mike Jones, Matt Uren and the recently re-signed Giovanni Aprile all waiting in the wings.

The losses of Mathews and Harris were expected. Hamilton has their long-term starter in Zach Collaros, their primary backup in Jeremiah Masoli and a developmental third-stringer in Everett Golson, so Mathews and Harris were no longer in the Ticats’ plans and no one should be surprised to see them leave.

Adding another receiver — maybe someone like Terrell Sinkfield or, dare I say, a reunion with Chris Williams — and finding a way to keep Andy Fantuz around would probably be enough for most Ticats fans to be happy with the team’s free agent haul. But it was not a bad first day for the Ticats, where they lost little but gained exactly what they needed.

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