Brandon Banks signing and the start of free agency, I neglected to talk about a couple of pretty significant re-signings by the Ti-Cats. The team made the heavily rumoured extension of Taylor Reed’s contract official, while also announcing an extension for defensive end Antonio Coleman.
Bringing Reed back was a no-brainer. He was the team’s Most Outstanding Rookie nominee last season, finishing with 62 tackles, eight sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery. He played in 15 games in his rookie season, taking over at middle linebacker in mid-July.
Getting Reed backs means the Cats will have all three of their starting linebackers back for at least one more season. Reed manned the middle and formed a formidable trio with Simoni Lawrence and Erik Harris. Hamilton has long been home to some of the best linebacking corps in the CFL – Otis Floyd, Jamall Johnson and Markeith Knowlton, and Johnson, Knowlton and Rey Wiliams were both great units – and the Lawrence-Reed-Harris triumvirate is starting to establish themselves alongside those great threesomes of years past.
There was a lot of vitriol aimed Reed’s way following his penalty in the Grey Cup that wiped out Brandon Banks’ potential game-winning, 90-yard punt return touchdown. But Reed was a solid player in 2014 and one play will not define him. He could have taken the easy road and signed elsewhere, but he chose to return to Hamilton and that speaks volumes. I expect big things from Reed in 2015.
The Coleman signing isn't getting as much publicity, but it might end up being one of the most significant ones the team makes this offseason. During a truncated 2014 campaign, Coleman notched 11 tackles and three sacks in just five games. His season was cut short by an Achilles injury suffered in a September game against Montreal. Not long after, the team brought back Justin Hickman.
And it is with Hickman in mind that the Coleman’s signing becomes that much more intriguing. While rotating players is always a solid idea – look at Hamilton’s stellar interior defensive line for a prime example – signing Coleman means the Cats don’t need to go as hard after Hickman. A Coleman-Norwood tandem might not be as flashy from a name perspective as a Hickman-Norwood duo, but the production could be just prolific. And Coleman likely comes in at a much lower cap number than Hickman will command should he remain unsigned when free agency opens tomorrow, so the team might be getting Hickman-like production at a fraction of the cost. That's not to say the Ti-Cats won't bring Hickman back, but the need isn't as great now that Coleman is back for another season.
Certain signings don’t garner the headlines that others do and the Coleman signing is one of those. But when all is said and done in 2015, we might be looking back and saying that re-signing Antonio Coleman (and Taylor Reed) ended up being amongst the biggest, best and most-important moves the Tiger-Cats made this offseason.