Ticats sign slotback Andy Fantuz
By FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
|Andy Fantuz reacts after missing a pass inside the five yard line against the Edmonton Eskimos during their CFL football game in Edmonton Oct. 10, 2011. (REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber)
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have landed the biggest fish in the CFL’s free-agent pool.
In coming to terms with highly coveted slotback Andy Fantuz, the Ticats acquired an important Canadian piece that gives the team an offensive weapon few can match.
Money, it seemed, was not an obstacle for a Ticat team desperate to contend for a Grey Cup at a time when the club is preparing for the restoration of Ivor Wynne Stadium, a project that means the team will play most of the 2013 season on the road.
By then, the team should be among the most entertaining in the league, or at least that’s the hope.
Fantuz will provide a lot to the franchise, assuming his inflated price tag does not get to his head.
It’s believed the price to acquire Fantuz, who starred in Saskatchewan, was in excess of $200,000, making the Western product the most high-priced non-quarterback in the CFL.
Typically, it was owner Bob Young who broke the news when he notified Ticat season ticket holders of the breakthrough signing Friday.
“It’s been a very exciting off-season in TigerTown to date,’’ he began. “And we’ve got even more good news for you: We’re bringing Andy Fantuz home.
“Andy is one of the league’s premier receivers in the prime of his career, so we’re obviously very excited to add him to our (already very talented) offence.”
With Henry Burris lining up under centre and a bevy of emerging young receivers, the one area that requires an upgrade is on the offensive line, a position Hamilton was looking to address via free agency.
Names such as Rob Murphy and Taylor Robertson, formerly of the Argos, have been mentioned prominently.
There was also talk on Friday that ex-Argos linebacker Kevin Eiben was close to joining the Ticats.
Fantuz, who had a brief audition with NFL’s Chicago Bears last season, is vacationing in Africa.
Naturally, the Chatham native used his Twitter account to confirm his move to the Hammer.
“Strange to feel heart broken and thrilled at the same time. Love you forever #Ridernation! Western Ontario I’m coming HOME!”
Fantuz, who spent six seasons on the prairies, was the league’s top Canadian in 2010 when he produced a CFL-high 1,380 receiving yards.
When he returned to Saskatchewan late last season, he suffered a high ankle sprain in a home win over the Argos.
While Saskatchewan clearly wanted Fantuz back, the writing was essentially on the wall when he refused to accept an extension last season.
His fate was basically sealed when the Roughriders dished out in excess of $300,000 to lock up Canadian offensive linemen Brendon LaBatte, formerly of Winnipeg, and ex-Argos centre Dominic Picard.