The last couple of free agent frenzies have seen the Ticats be less buyers and more spectators. A year ago, the Ticats signed just one free agent, kicker/punter Lirim Hajrullahu, and the year before was the same when they signed defensive back Abdul Kanneh.

The Ticats have spent the majority of their energy bringing back their guys, and the same could happen this year. Remember, it wasn’t until literally just before free agency started that they re-signed Ted Laurent and Larry Dean last year.

But what if the Ticats have to dip their toes into the free agent waters? Who might they be inclined to target to upgrade spots or replace veterans who signed elsewhere? Let’s take a look.

Offensive line
With Mike Filer still not signed and Ryker Mathews released to sign with the NFL’s New England Patriots, the Ticats have some holes to fill along their offensive line. Two such players they could target are former Redblacks Jon Gott and SirVincent Rogers. Gott would be a fine replacement for Filer, while Rogers could man the left side of the Ticats’ line like he has superbly done for both the Redblacks and Argos during his CFL career.

Canadian receivers
Mike Jones (WHO!?) remains unsigned, meaning the Ticats have a need at their Canadian receiver position. Lucky for them there are a number of quality Canadian pass catchers slated to hit the open market. Lemar Durant was the apple of many draftniks’ eyes back in 2015, but after a so-so career in Calgary he could be looking for a change of scenery (my gut says B.C. if he leaves Calgary, but the Ticats need to at least kick the tires to see if he’d come east).

Shaq Johnson is a burner and could fill Jones’ slot very nicely. His 2018 numbers were down from his 2017 ones, but he still has a lot of talent and has not yet reached his full potential. Ditto Nate Behar, who missed time his rookie year holding out, but posted decent numbers in Year 2. None of these players posted numbers as good as Jones’, but if he decides to leave for greener pastures, the Ticats do have options to replace him.

Defensive line
Ted Laurent, Justin Capicciotti, Jamaal Westerman and Nikita Whitlock are all back for 2019, but the Ticats could still use some reinforcements up front, especially on the edge opposite the Westerman/Capicciotti duo.

Willie Jefferson and Shawn Lemon are the two studs set to hit the market. Both are probably long shots, but the Ticats would be insane not to at least reach out to both. Jefferson should be in the NFL, period, but if he stays north and doesn’t go back to Saskatchewan (which is no longer a given with Chris Jones in Cleveland) the Ticats could make amends for their mistaken trading away of Charleston Hughes last year by getting a younger, better version this year (and actually keeping him).

Lemon has played for seven of nine CFL teams, with Montreal and Hamilton being the two he has yet to suit up with during his career. Lemon, just 30, has a legit chance to be the first CFLer to play for 10 teams as he will probably still be in the league when the Atlantic Schooners hopefully start playing in a few years. So for that alone the Ticats need to bring him in, but he would also be an upgrade for the team over Adrian Tracy (himself a pending free agent) and make Hamilton’s line a very fearsome one.

Chris Rainey and Duron Carter
The Ticats need to upgrade their return game, and Chris Rainey is the best returner available. Of all the players I think the Ticats might go after, Rainey is the one I feel has the best chance to be signed when the market opens on Tuesday.

OK, so Duron Carter won’t be a Ticat for a number of reasons, chief among them being that the Ticats don’t have a need at his position (they are pretty set at American receiver). But I think Carter would be a lot of fun in Hamilton, and he can provide some help in the return game as well. Carter will have suitors who need him more, but it is a marriage that nearly happened before so maybe it could happen for real this time.


Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.