Lots of Ticat intrigue in Hamilton

Hamilton Tiger-Cats' wide receiver Bakari Grant makes a catch guarded by Montreal Alouettes' Seth...

Hamilton Tiger-Cats' wide receiver Bakari Grant makes a catch guarded by Montreal Alouettes' Seth Williams during overtime in their CFL Eastern semi-final football game in Montreal, Nov. 13, 2011. (REUTERS/Christinne Muschi)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:13 PM ET

No team has been as active this off-season as the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, a team that is both remaking and retooling its roster, a team that still has some important work to be done.

But when all is said and done, no CFL team has the potential to be as explosive and entertaining as Hamilton, where Bob O’Billovich checked off Bakari Grant and Terence Jeffers-Harris from his to-do list on Thursday, a day when Obie ensured both receivers will be under contract for this coming season.

That’s not to say either is untouchable should a deal presents itself, especially if someone capable of playing in the defensive backfield, someone capable of wreaking havoc in the offensive backfield and someone along the line of scrimmage on offence becomes available, three areas that must be addressed.

Grant came of age during last year’s East semifinal in Montreal, where he made spectacular catches by making plays in the air and even added the occasional block.

Jeffers-Harris became a hot topic item the following week in the lead up to the East final against the host Blue Bombers, a team that released the veteran following a few trying episodes in Winnipeg.

A change of scenery will surely benefit Jeffers-Harris, whose big-play potential will be welcome on a Ticats offence that has the potential to be as good as any in three-down football.

With a new quarterback in Henry Burris, the next important time for the Ticats will arrive late next week when CFL free agency begins.

Mark Dewit, who filled in admirably at centre for an injured Marwan Hage, was jettisoned to Calgary in the package that brought Burris to the Hammer, while Simeon Rottier was released in order for the Edmonton native to sign with the hometown Eskimos.

While the offence looks good on paper, it’ll mean nothing if Burris isn’t protected.

When it comes to offensive linemen, Hamilton’s best bet is through free agency, where the Argos are likely to lose some of their team’s more familiar faces.

At no point in the Ticats’ recent history has training camp meant so much, a time when new head coach George Cortez will implement his offence and get the many new faces on the same page.

Burris should be revitalized and there will be no shortage of playmakers to get the ball to.

With Martell Mallett returning to the CFL following two years wallowing on NFL practice rosters, yet another player should feel like he has something to prove.

Mallett’s signing led to Avon Cobourne asking for his release, a move that will hurt the Ticats from a leadership role and a locker room presence, but this Ticat team must be Burris’ team and it’ll be incumbent on Smilin’ Hank to assert himself.

Assuming he’s able to stay upright and assuming Mallett provides that much-needed running presence, Burris will have plenty of options on offence.

Heck, it may expand if Andy Fantuz, the jewel of this year’s free-agent crop, is somehow able to be lured to the Hammer, which is only achieved by doling out money and a chance of winning a title.

Looking down the road, there’s no assurance that Marcus Thigpen will stick with the Miami Dolphins.

At least there’s Terry Grant to turn to, though the explosive receiver/running back/punt returner is coming off ankle surgery.

With so many changes completed and more that await, it’ll take time for the finished product to be fully on display.

But in the CFL, there’s plenty of time in an eight-team league where six qualify for the post-season.

Every year, it seems, the Ticats usher in a new era, but this one has a different feel, one that should excite followers of the club.

At the same time, one cannot overlook the loss of a Justin Hickman, a sack specialist who is going to get a shot with the Indianapolis Colts.

Justin Medlock is kicking the tires down south and he should, given how lethal he can be as a placekicker, or at worse on kickoffs in a league where specialists can earn $500,000 a season.

As interesting as the Ticats are shaping up, almost as interesting has been their off-season, which began shortly after their season ended with the release of head coach Marcel Bellefeuille.

frank.zicarelli@sunmedia.ca


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