Q&A: Ticats GM Eric Tillman on dealing away C.J. Gable

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats traded veteran running back C.J. Gable on Monday to Edmonton and Ticats general manager Eric Tillman explained the Ticats perspective.

Q: What’s the genesis of the C.J. Gable trade to Edmonton, how did the deal get initiated and completed? 

A: “As an organization, we don’t discuss how trades develop or transpire. Other clubs need to feel like they can advance ‘what if scenarios’ without the confidentiality of those conversations being breached. We, of course, expect the same degree of professionalism in return. It’s this simple: for every 10 trade discussions, only one or two are consummated. When agreements are reached, you discuss the thought process, the benefits, but, the rest of the discussions should go to the grave.”

Q: How much did Gable being a pending free agent and the performance of Alex Green against B.C. factor into the swap?

A: “It was one of many considerations. We factored in our respect for C.J. and balanced that with age, salary, free agent status, along with the upside of younger less expensive players like Alex, Ross Scheuerman and our rookie Canadian back Sean Thomas Erlington. June [Jones] feels very good about the upside of that trio, plus Mercer Timmis, who will be back next year after suffering a broken leg. Regardless, it was not an easy decision. Ask Kent [Austin] and he’ll quickly tell you that C.J. is one of the best pass protection backs in our league. More specifically, not only does C.J. take on blitzers, but, his film study allows him to anticipate where the pressure is coming from. That’s a very underrated aspect of his game, and one Mike Reilly will come to appreciate quickly.”

Q: So, the cap did play a role in moving Gable’s $90,000 salary off the books? 

A: “Yes. When you’ve had a high number of injuries, it has an impact. There were other cap-related factors, too, such as bonuses other players are earning, or may be earning in the coming weeks. It all factors into the decision-making process.”

Q: It’s the third trade in a short time with Eskimos GM Brock Sunderland, what has made it possible to get deals done with him?  

A: “This is a business of relationships, and I gave Brock his first job in football. His Dad, Marv, was a long time NFL scout and we’ve been friends for 30 plus years, so, due to those two factors, I guess it’s natural for there to be more conversations, which sometimes will lead to other things such as this. But, to be clear, this was an organizational decision. Kent, June and I had a long discussion before we agreed to make this move. Certainly, there were some mixed emotions. It’s never easy when you’re trading a respected veteran, and Kent and I both really appreciate all C.J. has given to our club over the past four and a half years. But, this is a business where change is the norm, and we’ve acquired the rights to two solid young prospects, plus easing our cap situation.”

Q: What’s the message to the locker room after trading away two all-star calibre players, Chick and now Gable?  

A: “Not sure what you mean by message, but, if you somehow think we’re not focused on trying to make the playoffs this season, then you’re badly mistaken. And, that’s saying it as politely as possible. Yes, Ottawa is five points ahead of us, but they only have three games left – at BC, at Saskatchewan and they host us. We, in comparison, have five games remaining – two more than the Redblacks. We play at Winnipeg, host Calgary, and then finish with Montreal twice and Ottawa. So, making the playoffs this year is still a very realistic goal.

Q: How close are the two offensive linemen you got back from Edmonton to coming to the CFL?

A: “Both are most likely next year prospects or beyond, which is fine, because the future matters. Right now, though, we’re very happy with the play of Tony Washington and Ryker Mathews at the two tackle spots. Our offensive line is much improved in recent weeks. Heck, so is our team. We’re 3-2 under June, and, quite frankly, could easily be 4-1 or 5-0. We’re going to keep working, keep competing, and see if we can grab that last playoff spot.  After an 0-8 start, that would be a remarkable turnaround.” 

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.