Former Tiger-Cats kicker Brett Maher has signed with the Ottawa Redblacks, per sources.
The move robs the Ticats of one possible solution to their kicking concerns. Head coach Kent Austin said after the team’s 30-29 loss to Ottawa on Thursday that the team would “probably continue to look” after so-so performances by Sergio Castillo and Ryan Hawkins.
It’s a return to nation’s capital for Maher, who played 22 games over two seasons with Ottawa, including all 18 games in their inaugural 2014 campaign – he kicked the game-winner to give the new franchise their first-ever CFL win. But a torn cartilage in his kicking hip was discovered just before training camp in 2015, leaving him in need of surgery and six months of rehab. He returned to punt in four games for Ottawa that year.
Maher signed with the Ticats as a free agent in May 2016 then won the job in training camp. He had a strong start to the season and after 13 weeks, he was third in the CFL with an 87.9 per cent accuracy rate on field goals while missing just one extra point. His 36.0 yard net punting average was good enough for fifth in the CFL.
By the end of the year, Maher’s field goal percentage had dipped to 82 per cent, he was sixth in net punting and his kickoff average had fallen almost two yards a boot. In the East Semi-Final loss to Edmonton, Maher missed a 35 yarder in the second quarter in a game the Ticats would eventually lose by a field goal.
The Ticats had discussions with Maher about returning but were reluctant to offer him much by the way of signing bonus or job security – something the Redblacks were apparently willing to do. Ottawa has two kickers currently in camp in American Ray Early and Canadian Ray Medeiros and the pair went five-for-five on field goal attempts against Hamilton.
But Early is known more as a punter while Medeiros is untested: Maher gives them a proven performer who can do all three jobs.
Early attended Hamilton mini-camp in 2016 but suffered an injury. It will be interesting to see if he becomes an option for the Ticats should Ottawa release him, as expected.