It’s been a busy last couple of weeks for the Ticats as they have locked up a slew of potential free agents ahead of the opening of the yearly bidding wars that commence Feb. 12.
Amongst the players the team brought back are Brandon Banks, Mike Daly, Alex Green, Nikita Whitlock and Justin Vaughn.
We covered the Banks signing previously, but it also should be noted that with Banks back it likely takes the Ticats out of the running for one of the soon-to-be free agent receivers. Banks, Luke Tasker, Jalen Saunders and Bralon Addison are likely going to be the team’s four starting American receivers, meaning there is very little room for anyone else, even if Saunders is expected to miss most of the summer months healing from an ACL injury suffered last Labour Day. That means it is unlikely we see the return of Greg Ellingson or the arrival of Bryan Burnham or Duron Carter. Banks returning all but sets in stone Hamilton’s starting receivers.
Daly’s return wasn’t a surprise, what with his local connections and the time the Ticats have put in to develop him into one of the league’s premier Canadian defensive backs. Daly signing back probably signals the end of Courtney Stephen’s time with the club. Stephen is too talented to be relegated to backup duty, even if he excelled in that role last year en route to being named the team’s top special teams player. Just like at receiver, the Ticats are now likely out of the Taylor Loffler sweepstakes as the three-time all-star likely hits the market.
Green’s signing likely spells the end of John White’s tenure with the club, and gives Green a chance to finally have the breakout season many thought was coming last year. Green played in just 10 of Hamilton’s 20 games (including playoffs), but his regular season stats — 809 total yards, eight total TDs and a healthy 5.3 yards-per-carry average — are top-tier-type numbers. If he can play a full season he will challenge for the rushing title and be thought of in the same breath as guys like Andrew Harris and William Powell (who dealt with injuries of his own before his breakout season a year ago).
Bringing back Whitlock and Vaughn gives the Ticats depth up front on the defensive line, and a guy to back up all-star Canadian Ted Laurent. Whitlock was a Swiss Army Knife for the Ticats a year ago, playing not only on the d-line, but also getting carries at running back. That experiment didn’t ultimately pan out, but it shows the versatility that is needed for players who aren’t every-down starters.
Vaughn missed most of last season with an injury, but played significant time in his rookie season in 2017 when Ted Laurent missed time. Quality Canadian depth is often the difference between good teams and bad, and developing that depth is easier to pay for when they are already in house. Inking Vaughn means the team won’t have to overspend to find his replacement, which will free up money for the Ticats to upgrade their roster elsewhere.
Hamilton can still sign some more of their players, but they have set themselves up nicely with these signings as the the craziness gets set to begin.