Esks raid Tabbies for Canadians

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:03 PM ET

The Edmonton Eskimos have raided three non-import players from the Hamilton Ticats in free agency, but at what price?

An estimated $300,000 hit to the cap this season is a gamble on the fifth-year players who have yet to prove themselves consistently on the stats sheet. But Eric Tillman has made investing in Canadian content his top priority during his first off-season as Eskimos general manager.

“I call it an investment,” said Tillman, who made it a Ticat trio by signing offensive lineman Brian Ramsay and defensive lineman Jermaine Reid to go along with last week’s acquisition of receiver Chris Bauman. “You can’t have it all. For lack of a better term, we are in the process of a redistribution of wealth.

“The ugly truth is we had a handful of high-priced Americans whose play didn’t equate to a six-figure contract. So what we’ve basically done is go get young Canadians and spend that money on them because Canadians are gold.”

Still, the Eskimos are offering a lot of bullion to a trio who weren’t full-time starters and haven’t had a breakout season to speak of. While the numbers aren’t adding up, Tillman said they’re about to.

“Sometimes you have to project,” he said. “Chris played very good football at the end of last season. There is zero debate that Jermaine was playing extremely well late last season, and Brian is what he is: he’s been a consistent, solid player for several years when he was with the Argos. He was a valuable sixth guy with the Ticats.”

Tillman said it came down to age, non-import status and the Eskimos’ roster needs.

“We feel we have gotten dramatically better from a Canadian standpoint. There are multiple ways to build winning football teams, but you can’t do it grab-bag,” Tillman said. “In the rebuilding process, strengthening our Canadian nucleus was going to be Priority A.

“I try to reduce things to their simplest form: there are 350 million Americans; there are less than 40 million Canadians. I may not have graduated with honours, but I understand the distinction with supply and demand based on those numbers.”

It just so happens that the Eskimos free-agent demand came entirely out of the Ticats supply.

“Of course, (Ticats director of player personnel) Joe Womack was with us in Sasktchewan, so it’s ironic that it’s fallen this way. It certainly wasn’t personal,” said Tillman, who also keeps in close contact with Hamilton head coach Marcel Bellefeuille. “Based on personal relationships, I wish it hadn’t been three Ticats. As they admitted to us on the phone, they would have done the same thing to us.”

CALGARY BOUND: Former Eskimos long-snapper Tim St. Pierre was picked up from free agency by the Calgary Stampeders Wednesday.

“They paid him pretty well and it was a good move for Tim and his family. We wish him well,” said Tillman, adding half-jokingly: “Except when he plays against us.”

That leaves non-import safety Jason Nugent and import receiver Kelly Campbell as the remaining free agents off the Eskimos roster.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/Gerry_EdmSun


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