Mariuz signs with Ticats

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:36 PM ET

Ray Mariuz is going to find out what the Hamilton-Argos rivalry is like in the colours of the Tiger-Cats.

After playing his first three years in the Canadian Football League with Toronto, Mariuz exercised his free-agency option yesterday and signed with Hamilton. He joined centre George Hudson and running back Josh Ranek, both of whom left the Ottawa Renegades for the Tiger-Cats.

Mariuz played four years at McMaster University under current Tiger-Cats head coach Greg Marshall, but his big reason for coming to Hamilton is a chance to compete for a starting linebacking job.

"In Toronto that didn't seem like that was going to happen for me for a couple of years," Mariuz said yesterday.

The Argos re-signed import outside linebacker Antonious Bonner, whom Mariuz replaced for some games last year because of injuries. Inside Canadian backer Mike O'Shea is set to sign a new deal.

"With the talent in Toronto, I'm competing with O'Shea, a (future) Hall of Famer, and (Kevin) Eiben, who is the top Canadian (linebacker) in the league," Mariuz said. "It doesn't leave a lot of room for myself."

Hamilton offered Mariuz the best financial package.

"Not that that's really ever the deciding factor," he said. "I don't like to let money determine my path in life, but they had a good offer and it helps. I don't want to be a career backup. Hamilton is a good city. I spent four years there. I know the coach and I think the organization is on the rise."

NO SURPRISE

The signings of Hudson and Ranek are not a surprise given that both wanted to be associated with Hamilton's new offensive co-ordinator, Joe Paopao, formerly the head coach in Ottawa, and offensive line coach Kani Kauahi.

"If you look at our roster we think the Canadian talent is as good as anybody's in the league," Ticats general manager Rob Katz said. "We had specific needs we wanted to address. With George we think we've solidified the line in front of (quarterback) Jason Maas. With Ranek, he's going to be able to step in and contribute significantly to everything we want to do (because of his connection to Paopao's offence). Ray's going to have every opportunity to step in and start and he's one of the best special teams players in the league."

Ottawa president Lonie Glieberman said the Renegades made generous offers to Hudson and Ranek.

"George and Josh will be two players the team will miss -- no question -- but you can't keep all your players when you have 15 free agents," he said. "But I think we came out of it pretty good. George will be the biggest loss, but on we go."

Ottawa will announce the re-signing of eight or nine players on Monday, including linebacker Kyries Hebert, defensive back Korey Banks and offensive lineman Pascal Cheron.

Notes

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have made the biggest free-agent signing so far, landing middle linebacker Barrin Simpson, formerly of the B.C. Lions. The Bombers outbid Hamilton and Toronto ... The Edmonton Eskimos re-signed all-star Jason Tucker, the league's top receiver last season.


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