Friday, 15 February 2013

Ti-Cats Ink Trio on Busy Opening Day of Free Agency

Well, it was certainly a more interesting first day of free agency this year. Last year, the opening day was about as exciting as watching paint dry, but the start of free agency this year was anything but dull. And there was a lot of news on all fronts, especially when it comes to the Ti-Cats.

The Ti-Cats started free agency off with a bang by signing three players: linebacker/defensive end Shomari Williams, defensive tackle Brian Bulcke and defensive back Evan McCollough.

Williams and Bulcke add great Canadian depth to a team that needed it. They could also be starters on the defensive line, Bulcke at tackle and Williams at end, which could see the Ti-Cats adjust their ratio or have more flexibility should someone get hurt during the season. Williams is also an excellent special teams player and fills the void left by Yannick Carter (who remains unsigned).

McCollough's signing is one many thought was coming (including yours truly). McCollough is familiar with Orlondo Steinauer's philosophies from their days together with the Argos, the Ti-Cats needed reinforcements in the secondary, and scooping up McCollough hurt their biggest rival. McCollough, Dee Webb, James Patrick and Bo Smith is the start of a pretty good secondary. What was once a weakness might now be a strength.

Perhaps the best part of the three moves the Cats made today is that they brought in younger players. Williams is 27, while Bulcke and McCollough are just 25; all three are just entering the primes of their careers and could be Tiger-Cats for quite some time. I think the Ti-Cats are a better team today than they were yesterday.

In other news, the Lions re-upped Solomon Elimimian and Jovon Olafioye, while adding a nice booked for Keron Williams in former Eskimos d-lineman Julius Williams. The Als cut Jerald Brown and picked up Geoff Tisdale, while former Alouette Dwight Anderson left Montreal for Saskatchewan. The Riders also brought back linebacker Tyron Brackenridge, but saw Odell Willis leave Regina and sign with the Eskimos. The Argos brought in linebacker James Yurichuk, while also getting the pleasant surprise of Grey Cup MVP Chad Kackert returning. The belief was that Kackert would be off to the NFL (the team he was signing with was rumoured to be the New York Jets), but opted to stay in Canada and with the Argos.

Of the bigger named guys left, all that really remains are running back Brandon Whitaker, defensive end Ricky Foley and quarterback Adrian McPherson. It looks like Whitaker might have to accept a backup role somewhere (Toronto seemed like a logical landing spot, but with Kackert staying out, I don't see him going there; all the other teams seem set at running back). The same could be said of McPherson. The one team many think does need a starter, Winnipeg, has already said they aren't looking for one, so McPherson might go from the plum position of backup to Anthony Calvillo to backup somewhere else. Foley is probably the hottest commodity left, being that he's a Canadian at a position typically played by American, but him still being available tells me his stock has dropped dramatically after a pretty lacklustre stint with the Argos (2012 Grey Cup performance aside).

With so many players getting signed so early, free agency won't drag like it did last year. Most of the big names are signed, so now it's seeing who fits where amongst the few impact players remaining. It'll be worth keeping an eye on, but the opening day of free agency was much busier, and much more exciting, than anyone rightfully expected.

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