Obie hopes signings put Ticats over the playoff hump

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:34 PM ET

TORONTO - Bob O’Billovich has to wait until November to find out whether the package of new players he has added to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ roster will help put the club over what has been a frustratingly high playoff bump.

There’s no doubt, though, that the Hamilton Tiger-Cats general manager figures the chances of that happening are a lot better than they were two days ago.

Running back Avon Cobourne was the top offensive free agent available on the open market until the Ticats signed him on Wednesday.

“It’s time for us to make a move (in the post-season),” O’Billovich said on Thursday. “We have been too inconsistent, and the most important thing for us is to have consistency. We want to take that next step.”

The Tiger-Cats have been skunked in each of the past two East semi-finals, games which they were favoured to win at home.

Cobourne’s Grey Cup experiences with the Montreal Alouettes, the thinking goes, will be as crucial in the Ticats locker room as they will be on the field. What’s more, the Ticats’ signings of offensive lineman Wayne Smith, who won the Grey Cup in 2007 with Saskatchewan and linebacker Renauld Wiliams and, to a smaller extent, running back Daryl Stephenson, it shouldn’t be just Cobourne who makes a positive impact.

Cobourne had 956 yards rushing for the Alouettes last year and caught 64 passes for 556 yards. The Ticats like that he can catch the football, but it’s clear his carrying talents will be a focal point in the Hamilton offence.

With Arland Bruce a prime target, there is the potential for plenty of fireworks when the Ticats have the ball.

Whether the move of Cobourne to Hamilton from Montreal adds up to a shift in power in the East Division will be one of the intriguing storylines in 2011.

The Alouettes have had an iron grip on the division for several years, and they got their hands on all-star cornerback Dwight Anderson. But replacing Cobourne will be difficult, and the Als might not exhale until Yvenson Bernard demonstrates he is capable.

Down the QEW, the Argos should be commended for retaining defensive stalwarts Kevin Huntley and Lin-J Shell. But the offence that did not scare many people last year has not yet been improved, and you have to think that Jim Barker will be looking to do so via trade.

Receiver Kelly Campbell is a free agent, but there could be chemistry issues if he is signed.

The additions of Cobourne and Williams mean that the days of running back DeAndra’ Cobb and linebacker Otis Floyd in Hamilton are over.

O’Billovich will try to trade the pair, but other teams would be wise to wait it out and sign Cobb and/or Floyd once they are released. That is bound to happen if O’Billovich can’t find trading partners.

Meanwhile, in Argoland, all signs point to a contract agreement between the team and free-agent safety Wes Lysack. No official announcement has been made, but sources insist it is done.

Lysack, it’s doubtful, would be an every-down player on defence for the Argos, and the Boatmen were happy with the job Willie Pile did at safety last season after he was switched from linebacker. Canadian depth can’t hurt, and Lysack, a native of Edmonton, will be a boon in that regard.

Speculation has linked free-agent quarterbacks Jarious Jackson (to whom Argos general manager/head coach Jim Barker said he would speak) and Chris Leak to the Argos, but Barker is not feeling any pressure to do anything. He has said several times he is comfortable with the Argos’ quarterbacks as they are now.

Jackson’s most recent employer, the B.C. Lions, have moved on, as they have invited retired quarterback Stefan LeFors to training camp.

Somewhere, Mike Kelly did a quiet fist-pump.

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca

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