Chad Owens embraced his heel turn, you have to give him that.
While joining the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last February after a long and distinguished career as a Toronto Argonaut certainly didn’t make him a villain among the Black and Gold faithful, there was something decidedly weird about seeing him don the colours after so long in the Double Blue.
Owens’ stay in Hamilton wasn’t a long one as it turned out, just one season. He signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Wednesday after the Tiger-Cats made it clear, politely, they had other priorities. His campaign with the Ticats was cut short by a broken foot after 12 games but the numbers he put up – 58 catches for 808 yards and five touchdowns – were enough to get him a sizeable raise and a two-year deal, though Owens’ willingness to dye his hair to match his team colours may be tested with the Riders.
Going back to Toronto was an option, too. There are multiple reports that the Argonauts made a push to repatriate their departed star and given the sorry state of the franchise, Owens would have made a great prodigal son story and probably sold some tickets, too. But he’s just the latest in a string of players who have decided that the uncertainty surrounding the club’s front office and coaching situation is something best avoided.
It has not been a good free agency period for Hamilton’s chief rival, at least not yet. In addition to Owens, Toronto has missed out on offensive tackle Derek Dennis, receiver Chris Williams and defensive backs Abdul Kanneh and Emanuel Davis. Dennis went so far as to attribute his decision, at least in part, to a conversation he had with Argonaut CEO Michael Copeland and a TSN ‘s Matthew Scianitti went so far as to tell a radio station that the “Argos’ situation is starting to smell across the league.”
Meanwhile, in Hamilton, there wasn’t much news to report on the second day of CFL free agency beyond the official announcement of defensive back Emanuel Davis’ return to the club (which was reported on Tuesday.) Canadian linebacker Beau Landry left for Calgary and the Ticats continue to pursue American receiver Terrell Sinkfield – who may be getting some NFL interest – and injured Canadian receiver Andy Fantuz, who seems willing to slow-play the negotiations.
The Riders were the big movers on Wednesday, adding not just Owens but Canadian safety Marc-Olivier Brouillette, Canadian offensive lineman Ryan White national running back Aaron Milton – not super-sexy names but solid pieces in an ongoing rebuild. Former Ticat Chris Williams signed a two-year contract with the B.C. Lions, who are banking that he’ll return to blazing-fast form after knee surgery.
As he did in Hamilton, Owens will embrace his new surroundings in Saskatchewan. Once the initial shock of the transition wore off, Owens did his share of community appearances and interacted with fans here. It always feels like there’s an element of branding to Owens’ public persona – he tweeted out his custom CO2 logo in Rider green after the signing – but he’ll find an enthusiastic audience in Saskatchewan, should he deliver on the field.
Owens in Black and Gold never looked at exactly right and Green and White won’t be any better: a return to the Double Blue would have been the only thing that would have made for a tidy narrative. Football, however, rarely plays along but instead leaves players and teams to make the best of it. With that in mind, Chad Owens is doing just fine.