With less than two weeks to go before the start of training camp, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats have released 14 players including Canadian defensive end Justin Capicciotti and American running back Alex Green.
Before we get into the analysis, here’s the full list of players:
NAT – DE – Justin Capicciotti
INT – WR – Cameron Echols-Luper
INT – WR – Keyarris Garrett
INT – RB – Alex Green
INT – DB – John Green
NAT – LB – Dillon Grondin
INT – DB – Jarrod Harper
INT – DE – Jamal Marcus
INT – RB – Rajion Neal
INT – DE – Tobenna Okeke
INT – LB – Terrance Plummer
INT – DB – Robert Porter
INT – RB – Darius Victor
INT – DT – Nikita Whitlock
INT – DT – Bobby Richardson
Capicciotti and Green are the biggest names. Capicciotti has been a starting defensive end in the league for much of his seven-year CFL career, starting 75 of his 110 games played (including 15 last season.) He was an all-star in Ottawa in 2015 when he had 12 sacks (and 11 the year before) but had just three last season.
The Ticats are loaded at defensive end and are likely to start just one Canadian: Jamaal Westerman, who was picked up in the Johnny Manziel trade last season. He had an injury-shortened 2018 but Westerman is an all-star calibre defensive end. There were a few people who wondered why he didn’t start over Capicciotti immediately after being acquired (including me.)
The Ticats also have former first-round pick Connor McGough who has played excellent special teams the last two seasons (something Capicciotti doesn’t do as much of) and is pushing for playing time. They also just drafted three defensive linemen last week.
After signing Ja’Gared Davis and with Adrian Tracy and Julian Howsare already in house, Hamilton will play with at least one international at defensive end (and if Westerman goes down, they might start two and change the ratio elsewhere if need be.)
Then there is the economics. The Ticats re-signed a bunch of guys and brought in Davis: you can’t pay everyone. Capicciotti was getting starter money but wasn’t a sure starter and so… cutting him now, before camp, saves cap space.
Green has been a solid back, starting 14 games over two seasons but he’s struggled with injury issues at times. He’ll also be 31 in June, at a position where age is not kind. The Ticats have Cam Marshall, who has been productive in Saskatchewan, and have just finished their run of free agent camps and finding backs hasn’t been an issue for them (or anyone, really.)
They’ve also got a Canadian in Sean Thomas-Erlington, who has shown flashes when given an opportunity and drafted another national in Maleek Irons, who our own John Hodge said was the best RB prospect in the draft. I’m not saying they will, but the Ticats could go Canadian here.
Here’s the thing: the Ticats were 8-10 last year and made the playoffs in large part because the East Division was a dumpster fire: you can’t bring back that exact same team and expect a different result.