Saturday, 8 December 2012

Give Someone Else the February Grey Cup

While free agency doesn't start until February, the CFL's releasing of their players up for free agency has already prompted discussion about who could be available and who the Tiger-Cats should chase. There are a number of potentially high-profile players free to peddle their wares to the highest bidder come the 15th of February that could help improve a Tiger-Cat team that finished a league worst 6-12 in 2012.

But while dreams of JC Sherritt, Solomon Elimimian and Adrian McPherson dance in many fans' heads, I'm of the opinion that the team needs to do very little come free agent time. That's not to say that they should do nothing – upgrades at spots are obviously needed – but I don't want to see another batch of mid-February posts and articles about how the Ti-Cats "won" free agency. Hamilton has been the winner of the most unofficial Grey Cups in the month February more times than I can remember and that has brought exactly zero actual Grey Cups to Hamilton.

Last year, the team went out and spent big money on Andy Fantuz. The year before, they signed Avon Cobourne. In 2010, the big move was acquiring Sandro DeAngelis. Some worked out better than others, but none of them proved to be the missing piece to the championship puzzle.

The less said about DeAngelis the better. He was an abject failure for the Ti-Cats; he knows it, we know it, so it's best to just move on.

Cobourne, as far as I am concerned, was as close to a perfect pickup as the team has made the last three off-seasons. Sure, he never eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards and he was let go after just one season, only to be brought back, benched and then finally inserted into the lineup when injuries forced Chevon Walker out. But Cobourne has been a locker room leader and while I am fully for this signing (and how that might look contradictory considering I don't want the team to make a Cobourne-esque move this off-season), there isn't a Cobourne-like player available this off-season.

Fantuz was deemed a bit of a disappointment after a 72-catch, 971-yard, eight-touchdown season. Yet those numbers are probably the second best of his career and are better than his career averages – 58 catches, 851 yards, five touchdowns – and way better than his career averages if you take out his one monster season (2010). The problem is, that monster 2010 season was the reason Fantuz was so sought after last winter and why he is being paid reportedly close to $200,000/year. His 2012 numbers weren't as good as his 2010 ones (though he did miss games and scored more touchdowns in 2012 than in any season prior) and that shows the perils of luring high-priced veterans to town. You pay more than you should and rarely get a return on the investment.

That's not to say the team shouldn't bring guys in, but if you think about all the players the team has acquired, either in the winter or after via free agency or by trade, the ones who have been the some of the team's best players over the last three or four years are the guys who came to the team with very little fan fare. There was no big press conference when the team traded for Markeith Knowlton or when they signed Jamall Johnson and Otis Floyd or when the dealt for a player off Saskatchewan's negotiation list named Chris Williams.

Sometimes big free agent signings can work out, but the Ti-Cats have too often tried to build their team through free agency and it clearly doesn't work. If it did, the team would have taken all those February championships and turned them into one or two November ones.

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