There may be a changing of the guard taking place in Steeltown.
Dane Evans has the Hamilton Tiger-Cats comfortably atop the East Division with a 9-3 record. He is 4-2 as the club’s starting quarterback with road losses against Saskatchewan and Calgary having been decided by a combined six points.
Jeremiah Masoli, 31, is a pending free agent who is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in July. The East Division’s reigning Most Outstanding Player put up better numbers than Evans before the change was made, but the production between the two isn’t far off.
It’s time to ask: has Dane Evans made Jeremiah Masoli expendable in Hamilton?
Let’s start with the finances.
Evans signed a contract extension with the Ticats through 2021 this past off-season. The 25-year-old had thrown for just 383 yards in his career at the time, so it’s fitting that he was paid like a second-string pivot.
Evans will make $75,000 in “hard” money this year, including: $55,000 in salary; a $10,000 signing bonus; and a $10,000 housing allowance.
Evans’ largest bonus is the $3,000 he receives every time he takes the majority of Hamilton’s offensive snaps in a game. The Tulsa product has reached this bonus seven times in 2019 and stands to hit it six more times provided he remains healthy.
The contract includes other bonuses tied to Evans taking the majority of snaps in a large number of games.
Evans has already earned a $10,000 bonus for taking the majority of Hamilton’s offensive snaps in six games. He will earn an extra $15,000 if he does the same in nine games and a further $20,000 if he does so in 13 games.
Should he capitalize on every available bonus in his deal — which includes other things like leading the East Division in passing yards, being named an all-star, and winning Most Outstanding Player — Evans will earn $174,000 in 2019.
Some of the numbers above grow in the second year of the contract.
Evans’ base salary increases from $55,000 to $65,000 in 2020, while his housing allowance jumps from $10,000 to $15,000. The amount he receives when taking the majority of Hamilton’s offensive snaps also grows from $3,000 to $3,500 per game.
This means Evans’ contract maxes out at $213,000 in 2020 should he reach every available bonus.
Even coming off ACL surgery, Masoli is likely to command more than $500,000 per year on the open market. There are potential quarterback openings in Saskatchewan, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal; with a market that deep, Masoli’s price will only rise.
Saving approximately $300,000 against the salary cap would make it easier for the Ticats to move on from Masoli. That money would help Hamilton retain other pending free agents while potentially allowing them to sign a big name (or two) off the market as well.
Letting Jeremiah Masoli walk in free agency would not be without risk. Dane Evans hasn’t proven himself over a long period of time, while Masoli may play brilliantly with a new team if allowed to sign elsewhere.
It’s never too early to think about the future of quarterbacking across the CFL. The first domino to fall this off-season will likely come from Hamilton where the Ticats have a big decision to make heading into the 2020 season.