released their list of potential 2013 free agents and the Tiger-Cats have 14 players eligible to hit the open market this winter. There are some key names among the players whose contracts expire this February and more than a few that the team would be wise to ink to new deals.
The player I think the Ti-Cats need to go hardest after is offensive lineman Brian Simmons. Simmons was a guy that didn't get much ink in 2012 and that is a good thing. Simmons was probably Hamilton's best offensive lineman. He gave up just one sack and committed a ridiculously low three penalties all season. For a 10-year veteran that is good; for a second-year player guy, that is phenomenal. Simmons was great for Hamilton in 2012 and unless he is playing for an NFL team, Simmons better be in Hamilton next year.
After Simmons, the team needs to get Marwan Hage and Peter Dyakowski to agree to new deals. Both players had their 2012 seasons cut short due to injury, the second straight year that has happened for Hage, but both can still be solid contributors and provide a veteran presence along the offensive line. Dyakowski was a divisional all-star for the first time in his career and Hage can still dominate when healthy. Getting both players back should be high on Hamilton's priority list.
The change that people were calling for in the secondary could happen as there are five defensive backs whose contracts are set to expire. Bo Smith, Carlos Thomas, Marcell Young, Geoff Tisdale and Chris Rwabukamba could all be playing elsewhere next season. I doubt the team will be able to re-sign them all, but one or two of them should be back next year. Smith has turned into one of the better cover guys since his return from an NFL tryout a few years ago. Both Young and Thomas have shown flashes of excellent play and each could be major contributors if they could stay healthy (both players spent time on the nine-game injured list last season). Rwabukamba is a young Canadian corner who started a few games for the Ti-Cats last season. Tisdale, who was reacquired from Calgary last summer is probably not going to be brought back.
The team also has a number of non-imports free to test the market. Yannick Carter, Jonathan Hood, Eddie Steele and Daryl Stephenson have all contributed over the years, with Hood and Carter playing key roles on special teams, Steele providing solid depth on the defensive line, and Stephenson providing solid blocking and becoming more and more involved in the offense. Though none of them are game-changing players, they all fill a role. It will be interesting to see which players the team tries to bring back and which they let walk.
A tough call the team will have to make involves what to do with Terry Grant. Grant looked great in limited action in 2011 before suffering a catastrophic injury in a late-season game in Montreal. Grant spent the entire 2012 season on the injured list. The team is loaded at running even if Avon Cobourne doesn't return (though I think he should). Chevon Walker looked good in spurts and Martell Mallett is expected to be back next season, so there just may not be any room for Grant. It will be a curious situation to watch.
And lastly, we have Quinton Porter. Porter saw extremely limited action in 2012 (just one pass attempt and eight rushing attempts for the entire season) and I have to think he is headed elsewhere for 2013. If Porter does sign somewhere else, that leaves the Ti-Cats with just two quarterbacks on the roster: Henry Burris and Dan LeFevour. That means the team will have to bring another quarterback in. Could a possible 2012 Hec Creighton award winner and 2011 Vanier Cup champion be headed Hamilton's way? I'm sure plenty of fans would be happy to see Porter moved out in favour of McMaster's Kyle Quinlan. But whether it's Quinlan or not, the Ti-Cats will bring in a quarterback or two to compete for the No. 3 spot in training camp if Porter does not get re-signed.