The Dane Evans saga in Hamilton is finally over after the Tiger-Cats traded their once-franchise quarterback to the B.C. Lions for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2024 CFL Draft on Thursday.
Addressing the media for the first time since the trade, Evans admitted that he is not unhappy to be leaving the only place he has called home in his professional career.
“I’m not really going to speak on the past and how it went down because I’m not even a Ticat anymore,” Evans said on Friday. “I really don’t care what those guys do now and that’s kind of been my mindset for a little bit.”
The writing was on the wall for Evans in Hamilton when the team traded for Bo Levi Mitchell eight days after their season ended. It became a fait accompli when Mitchell signed a lucrative three-year contract extension with the team at the end of January.
Evans’ tumultuous stint with the Ticats was marked by some impressive peaks, including his remarkable turn leading the team in 2019 after Jeremiah Masoli was injured in July of that year and his heroic rescue in the 2021 East Final. The valleys came in a pair of Grey Cup losses, only one of which he finished, and a disastrous 2022 campaign that saw him turn the ball over a league-leading 23 times.
The 29-year-old knows he failed to play up to his own standard in his lone season as the unquestioned starter in Steeltown but believes that is an outlier based on his career achievements so far.
“I’m definitely not stupid. I know I didn’t have a great year [in 2022],” Evans stated. “I think when you look at my history, though, I think I’m a pretty good football player.”
Evans’ poor play was not the only reason that the Tiger-Cats underachieved last season but the team swiftly decided to move on, stringing their former starter along for several months in an effort to unload his hefty contract. Though he deftly dodged questions regarding his treatment near the end of his tenure with the team, it is clear that the quarterback harbours some resentment for how the transition was handled.
“They did what they did and I’m doing what I’ve wanted to do,” Evans said. “They did what they had to do, and they felt like they needed to do it. So that’s what they did.”
Hamilton head coach and president of football operations Orlondo Steinauer previously stated that the team kept Evans in the loop on a potential Mitchell deal.
“This isn’t something that Dane was going to read coming across the ticker or anything, this was a conversation that we had once we knew there was going to be some real traction in acquiring Bo’s rights and that’s all you can really do,” Steinauer told 3DownNation during the league’s winter meetings earlier this year.
“We had those conversations before anybody else knew of this publicly and that’s all you can do.”
Evans does not remember things going down in quite the same fashion as his former head coach does.
“It was a surprise to me like everybody else,” Evans said regarding the move made barely a week after Hamilton’s season ended in the East Semi-Final. “I was informed the day of [the trade for Mitchell] that it happened. It wasn’t like being asked, it was just ‘this is going to happen.’”
Being cast aside for a new beau — no pun intended — would give anyone a lot to think about. Evans was no different, especially with how caught off guard he was by the move.
“I didn’t really even know how to react. I remember I got the phone call in the car with my wife. I didn’t say really anything because it was so out of left field,” Evans recalled.
“Then I had some time to think on it. Obviously, you go through every emotion, being pissed off, being like, ‘why’, all that stuff. They did what they did and they felt like it was what they needed to do. It’s done.”
Many Tiger-Cats supporters have taken to social media to voice their displeasure with how Evans’ departure was handled, going so far as to use terms like ‘hostage’ and ‘classless’ to describe the team’s treatment of their former face of the franchise.
Evans signed a two-year contract extension with the team in January of 2022, which meant that unlike fellow quarterbacks Trevor Harris and Cody Fajardo — both of whom landed coveted starting positions in free agency — he was not able to market his wares to teams around the league earlier this month.
Some believe since the Tiger-Cats had clearly moved on from him, they should have done better by Evans and released him prior to the start of free agency. From the team’s perspective, they were under no pressure to get Evans’ hefty contract off the books since he was not owed any money until training camp. In waiting to find a trade partner, the Ticats acquired an asset that they would not have if the team had done the nice thing and outright released him.
“It is what it is,” Evans said. “It happened and I can’t do anything about it now.”
Due to Hamilton’s limited leverage, Evans only fetched a conditional fourth-round pick in next year’s draft. For comparison’s sake, the Tabbies recouped a second-round pick from the Saskatchewan Roughriders for Zach Collaros in 2018.
That is not to say that he did not have his fair share of suitors. While the Lions were his preferred destination thanks, in part, to his wife’s ties to the west coast, they were not the only team that had talks with Evans and his camp.
“There are a couple of teams that were talking to me, talking to my agent, talking to the Ticats, trying to make something work,” Evans said. “Toronto was definitely in the mix.”
The Argonauts being interested in Evans’ services should come as no surprise after last season’s starter, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, left to sign with the New Orleans Breakers of the United States Football League. However, the Ticats were in no hurry to help a rival and Evans had his own sights set on backing up Vernon Adams Jr. in B.C., happy to chase a Grey Cup even if meant holding a clipboard.
Both sides are seemingly happy to have their divorce finalized and the moving trucks that left Evans’ Hamilton home early this offseason may soon show up in Vancouver, as his wife and baby daughter plan to live with him there throughout the season.
While hurt feelings remain, Evans’ focus has long since shifted towards returning to Steeltown in November for the Grey Cup, this time wearing orange.
“It’d be pretty sweet,” he grinned.