The Hamilton Tiger-Cats made their first major splash of the off-season, and it was the biggest splash they could have possibly made: re-upping quarterback Jeremiah Masoli on a one-year deal.
With the rise of Dane Evans, many wondered whether Masoli’s tenure in Hamilton was over. During Grey Cup week, both the team and Masoli expressed interest in staying together, but many believed that wasn’t realistic given the economics of the situation. But not only was it realistic, it is now reality as the 2018 East MOP will be back for the 2020 season.
If the 2019 CFL season proved anything it was that teams need multiple quarterbacks. Every team — every team — lost their Week 1 starter at some point during the season. Of the two quarterbacks who started the Grey Cup one (Dane Evans) was a backup to start the year while the other (Zach Collaros) was the starter for another team (Saskatchewan) before being traded to another team (Toronto) before landing with the team (Winnipeg) he would ultimately captain to a championship.
Given how the season played out, bringing back Masoli to keep the combo with Evans going was a smart move. It also gives the Ticats some added stability and flexibility at the game’s most important position.
We know what both QBs can do, having seen Masoli light up the stat sheet in 2018 en route to an MOP nomination and a divisional finals berth. We have also seen what Evans can do, winning a ton of games and piloting the team to their first Grey Cup appearance in five years.
The Ticats have two viable options for a starter, and the team can let them battle it out for the job and let the best man take it. Even if I believe Masoli will be given every opportunity to regain his starting job once he is back at 100 per cent.
The deal also makes sense for Masoli, as he gets to stay in familiar surroundings while he rehabs his knee injury. If Masoli had left for a bigger payday elsewhere, like Toronto or Ottawa, there would probably have been pressure to rush back to justify him being the franchise saviour.
With Evans already in Hamilton and already proven capable of leading this team, the Ticats and Masoli can take their time with his return. Masoli believes he will be ready for training camp, but if he is not the Ticats don’t need to rush him back for fear of falling behind during the early part of the season.
One other thing that cannot be overlooked, although it likely played very little in the team’s decision to reach an agreement with Masoli, was that it took the best pending free agent quarterback off the market. Two of Hamilton’s closest rivals, Ottawa and Toronto, are in desperate need of a new starting quarterback — Masoli had to be at the top of their respective lists. With Masoli staying in Hamilton it means he won’t be in Ottawa or Toronto, and that is a big win for the Ticats.
With Evans under contract for two more seasons at a very reasonable rate, the Ticats now have a plethora of options going forward. If Masoli regains his old form and guides to the Ticats to another stellar season, he likely gets the long-term contract and becomes fully entrenched as the starter. If not, the Ticats let him walk next off-season and role with Evans. Hamilton won’t be able to keep both quarterbacks forever, but being able to keep them for at least one more season is one more than many thought was possible.