The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have spent the last month locking up some of the key pieces from their 2019 Grey Cup run, but the biggest move was signing someone who wasn’t around for the Grey Cup — quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.
As has been well documented, Masoli missed two-thirds of the last CFL campaign after tearing his ACL, but bringing him back — and still being able to keep Dane Evans — is a huge coup for the Ticats.
For starters, it gives the Ticats two starting-calibre quarterbacks, and despite what old heads used to say, having two quarterbacks in the CFL is a good thing.
Having two capable quarterbacks is almost a must now, and the Ticats have two of the best. It is clearly the CFL’s best one-two punch at QB, and whoever is the backup — likely Evans — could probably start for two or three teams. That type of depth is a big reason why Hamilton will go into the 2021 season as Grey Cup favourites.
The other thing signing Masoli does is keep him off another team. Quarterback spots aren’t plentiful but had he hit the open market, Masoli would have been an upgrade over the incumbent starters in Toronto, Ottawa and Winnipeg.
Keeping Masoli doesn’t just make the Ticats better but it stops another team — likely one in their own division — from getting better themselves.
It is also a signal that the Ticats are all-in on making a run for the Grey Cup in 2021. If the team had let Masoli walk and gone with Evans, the team is probably still good — after all, they went 10-2 after Masoli went down in mid-July. But keeping Masoli and having Evans as a backup gives the Ticats two strong options at the game’s most important position.
At some point the Ticats will have to make a decision on which quarterback to go with moving forward. As it stands right now, both Evans and Masoli will be free agents after the 2021 season and I don’t foresee a situation where both are still in Black and Gold in 2022.
The Ticats had planned to punt the decision on which QB to go with last year, but they’ll hold fewer cards next off-season than they did in this one. With Evans still under contract, if the Cats had decided to stick with Masoli, they could have dealt Evans for a pretty handsome sum.
Nick Arbuckle netted the Stampeders a third-round pick from the Redblacks, as well as the teams swapping their first-round picks. That would have been the minimum asking price for Evans, who has had more success and playing time than Arbuckle.
While a trade is still possible — Arbuckle was traded to Ottawa as he was about to enter free agency — the Ticats won’t have the same leverage they would have had last year.
The Ticats have spent the last month loading up, re-signing key contributors like Cariel Brooks, Chris Van Zeyl, Brandon Revenberg, Darius Ciraco, and Simoni Lawrence.
Hamilton holds the longest active Grey Cup drought in the CFL after falling to Winnipeg in 2019, but with the moves they’ve made — especially re-upping with Masoli — they’re looking to pass that baton to the Montreal Alouettes sooner rather than later.