Free agency can be both a fun and stressful time.
The anticipation of which new players will sign with your favourite teams comes with the anguish of knowing some of you current favourites might be donning different colours for the upcoming season.
For the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the 2020 free agent frenzy will be a little of both. The Ticats still have a number of key contributors from last season’s record-breaking team unsigned, players such as defensive tackle Dylan Wynn, offensive tackle Ryker Mathews, and receiver Luke Tasker to name just a few. The likelihood that all of those players return are slim, as some will get offers the Ticats simply cannot match.
While watching those players leave will hurt for some fans, the excitement of who the Ticats could add to a team that finished 15-3 and went to the Grey Cup should quell any angst over who might not be back.
The Ticats don’t have a ton of needs as they enter free agency, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t players who couldn’t take this team from Grey Cup runners-up to Grey Cup champions.
Ja’Gared Davis will be back in the Hammer in 2020, and with Julian Howsare re-signing earlier this winter, you wouldn’t think defensive end would be where the Ticats are looking, but they were among the final three teams in the race to snag 2019 defensive MOP Willie Jefferson. Jefferson toured the Ticats’ facilities on Sunday, however decided to stay in Winnipeg.
After the Ticats struck out on Jefferson, I doubt they look anywhere else for pass rush help. With Davis and Howsare you bring back both starters from last year’s Grey Cup, and with the more than quarter-of-a-million dollars you didn’t spend on Jefferson, that might open the door for Dylan Wynn to return.
Left tackle could be a spot the Ticats need to address if 2019 East Division all-star Ryker Mathews is not back. He would be, without question, the No. 1 left tackle available and the Ticats should do everything they can to lock him up for 2020 and beyond. But if Mathews goes somewhere else, Derek Dennis would be one heck of a replacement. Dennis seems destined to leave Calgary and Hamilton would provide him with a nice landing spot. B.C.’s Justin Renfrow could also be a possible target.
Receiver isn’t a huge need, and the Ticats have shown an ability to scout receivers better than almost anyone over the last few years, but if a vet is needed to replace Bralon Addison and, potentially, Luke Tasker, there are a number of solid options slated to hit the market.
Chris Matthews, Armanti Edwards and Naaman Roosevelt are also possible targets if the Ticats feel they need to replace the production of Bralon Addison with a veteran. We also can’t forget about Duron Carter. I know a lot of fans will cringe at that notion — and I imagine it will conjure up memories of Arland Bruce III playing for Hamilton a decade ago — but Carter is still a supremely talented player who has not yet turned 29. He could be a great addition to the Ticats’ current group of pass catchers.
The Ticats could also dip their toes in the Canadian receiver market if they decide to not bring back Mike Jones. That is not as robust a list of potential targets, but it is topped by a young Canadian who is poised for a massive breakout in Juwan Brescacin.
Injuries cut his 2019 season short, but a lot of people remain high on the Mississauga native, who was picked by many as a potential breakout star last year, and a return home(ish) would make for a great get for the Ticats. Former Argo Jimmy Ralph could also be guys the Ticats go after if they are looking to not spend top dollar on Brescacin.
One thing that needs to be made clear: the Ticats will not use free agency to fill every hole that exists on their roster by players departing. That’s not cost feasible and not the way economics work in the CFL.
Hamilton will sign some good players, and they will lose some good ones too, and some of those good ones they lose will be replaced by first-year players on rookie deals. A year ago we didn’t know who Jaelon Acklin or Marcus Tucker were and they played key roles in getting the Ticats to the Grey Cup.
The Ticats will have a busy free agency, as will every team, and we will better know the makeup of the 2020 team once the market opens at noon on February 11.