TORONTO - In the bottom line world that is pro football, where no contracts are guaranteed, players get tossed around and shown the door as often as the chains get moved in a game.
This revolving door picks up added momentum in three-down football, a league that demands every team receive as much bang for whatever buck is being awarded to whatever player.
Stevie Baggs emerged as yet the latest victim in this uncertain playing field, an import who would surface as an important piece in Hamilton, but a piece nonetheless that was as expendable as anyone.
It’s of little concern whether the move by the Ticats to release Baggs was based on finances or performance issues, the fact remains that Baggs, just like any American pining to make the CFL his football home, is only as good as his last down.
For every Baggs that gets released, there’s someone else looking to fill that void.
No one in their right football mind had any clue who Stevie Baggs was when he first splashed on to the CFL scene in Regina, where he and John Chick teamed up to provide one of the league’s most lethal attacks off the edge.
Like any player who sees his stock rise, Baggs took his act to the NFL, hoping to cash in on his profile with a paycheque.
He would soon return to the CFL, where the Ticats bagged this defensive end and saw Baggs play to a level under defensive co-ordinator Greg Marshall that would help Hamilton to a rare home playoff game.
History will recall a disheartening loss to the Argos and quarterback Cleo Lemon, a setback that would trigger much change in Steeltown, a performance by Baggs that clearly put him under the microscope.
When a lot was expected from Baggs, nothing was summoned.
When the Ticats switched co-ordinators last season, Baggs’ numbers went south and his time in the Hammer was numbered.
When a guy is awarded a contract worth in the neighbUorhood of $150,000, more than three quarterback sacks are expected, regardless of the type of scheme being employed on defence.
When a guy is privately viewed as too self-centred, it’s almost inevitable that a change would occur.
Naturally, there were conflicting reports on the exact reason for Baggs’ release, but the truth is often hidden behind the gamesmanship and public posturing.
Baggs, in a nutshell, simply had to go as the Ticats continue with their off-season makeover.
Hamilton is creating as much competition on the defensive line as possible as they try to unearth the next Justin Hickman, who parlayed his CFL-leading sack total into a two-year deal in Indianapolis. The Colts are switching from a four-three look to a three-four system that will allow the under-sized Hickman to come off the edge at linebacker.
For the amount the Ticats were paying Baggs, they can now pay two players, guys who will be given an opportunity to showcase their talents, guys who will ultimately end up somewhere else in due time.
It’s the cruel nature of the CFL because money is being spent on offence when getting customers into the stands is more important than ever.
In the case of the Ticats, this coming season is even more meaningful given how Ivor Wynne Stadium will be torn up and brought back to life in a more modern design that will force the team to play all its games on the road next year.
In a move that flew under the radar, the Ticats pretty much showed their hand once Andy Fantuz was locked up by coming to terms with Greg Peach, a free-agent defensive lineman who played the past three seasons in Edmonton.
If Baggs didn’t see the writing on the wall then shame on him.
In Robert Rose, the Ticats have a defensive lineman who got some experience in the CFL, but he’ll be one player worth watching in training camp.
And there are others, namely Angelo Craig, Darius Powell and Marc Schiechl.
Craig and Powell spent time on Hamilton’s practice roster, while Schiechl holds the career sack total in NCAA Division II, all unknowns who can easily emerge as the talk in Tiger Town.
The Ticats figured out what they had with Baggs and came to the conclusion that they’ve seen enough.
MAVEETY GETS HIS KICKS
Of all the comings and goings in the Hammer, the one that may prove most impactful involves the team’s kicking game.
When Justin Medlock took yet another kick at the NFL can, agreeing to a deal with Carolina for the league minimum $390,000, it opened up an opportunity for Josh Maveety.
For those not aware of Maveety, join the queue.
On the surface, the Ticats are hoping Maveety, a Bishop’s product, becomes the next Sean Whyte, a Canadian kid who learned the ropes and then went on to establish himself.
Maveety came to the Hammer as an undrafted free agent last June.
Maveety never appeared in a game, but any observer at Ticat practice could see the potential in this Kingston, Ont., native.
Medlock, meanwhile, made quite the impression in his first year with the Ticats, connecting on 49 of 55 field goal attempts.
Olindo Mare is the incumbent with the Panthers, but life as a kicker is as fleeting as any position.