Hamilton's potential free agents, and today I will look at the players from the other seven teams that Hamilton should consider trying to lure to Steeltown. I am not advocating for the team to sign all of these players; in fact, that would be impossible under the current $4.35-million salary cap. But Hamilton would be wise to give these players a look to make the team better. Signing any number of these players would fit with the "better is better" motto the team uses.
Hamilton's biggest needs are along the two Lines and in the Secondary, and they could potentially need a Punter and a Receiver. Those are the areas the team should concentrate on. There are still other ways to acquire talent, so should the team not fill all their needs, they can do so with the CFL Draft, free agent camps and by bringing in previous draft picks that have yet to sign. But that doesn't mean the team shouldn't be busy during free agency as there are a lot of quality players that could fill a lot of holes on the team.
Despite it being one of the groups that least needs an upgrade, Hamilton's No. 1 target should be the same as every other team: Saskatchewan Receiver Andy Fantuz. Forget his 2011 campaign, that wasn't the real Fantuz, and he is far from the only player to come back from an NFL stint and not produce at a high level. Fantuz is still the premier pass catching Canadian in the league. The team that lands him will be getting a playmaking Receiver that rivals any in the league. If a bidding war erupts, I doubt Hamilton will come out on top. But with Fantuz's reported desire to play closer to home, Hamilton has to be in the running. Getting Fantuz would be the biggest coup for any team that lands him. Hopefully, that team is Hamilton.
The Cats lost a very good Offensive Lineman when Simeon Rottier signed with Edmonton and he will need to be replaced. The Cats should first look to Winnipeg's Brendon LaBatte to fill that hole. LaBatte has been an East Division All-Star the past three seasons, and was a league All-Star in 2011. He would not only be a replacement, but an upgrade. If the Cats can't land LaBatte, Montreal's Scott Flory or Toronto's Taylor Robertson are far from boobie prizes. They both come with injury and age concerns, but they could be a good stopgap for a season or two as the team finds a younger player to groom. There has been some chatter about bringing Rob Murphy in, but that would be a mistake. If the team is going to pay for an import Tackle, they'd be better off re-signing Jason Jimenez than bringing in Murphy. It's not easy to find quality Offensive Linemen, especially Canadian ones, but 2012 is as good a year as any to be in the market for one.
As luck would have it, there are a lot of quality veteran Defensive Backs available, which just so happens to be an area the Cats desperately need help at. Toronto's Byron Parker would be a great addition and would instantly upgrade the Secondary. He's a ballhawk, which is something the Cats have lacked since Chris Thompson was dealt to the Eskimos. A couple of BC Lions could be on the shopping list as well, as both Dante Marsh and Ryan Phillips are available. Marsh has an injury question mark, but Phillips is as durable as they come. Either of them would be big upgrade. Montreal's Mark Estelle could help as well, but a season-ending injury in 2011 makes his health a huge question mark. If the will is there, Hamilton should be able to find some Secondary help.
With the loss of Justin Hickman to Indianapolis, the Cats will need to address their deficiencies on the Defensive Line. The unit was already in need of some help before the 2011 All-Star bolted, but now it really needs to be addressed. Edmonton's Greg Peach could be a guy to fill in for Hickman. Peach missed six games last season, but played very well when healthy. The Cats also needs bodies in the middle, and BC's Aaron Hunt fits that need. If Hunt is too expensive, Toronto's Alex Buzbee could be in play. The Defensive Line isn't overflowing with talent, so the team might not be able to address their needs through free agency.
If the Cats are unable to agree to terms with Justin Medlock, the team has Josh Maveety ready to step in at Kicker; however, the team would still need a quality Punter, which makes Calgary's Burke Dales a potential target. As Plan Bs are concerned, Dales is a pretty good one.
It has been a busy, change-filled off-season so far for the Tabbies, so expect some action starting tomorrow. The team is not able to sign all of the above-mentioned players, but signing any of them would upgrade the team. We'll see what the Cats have up their sleeve when free agency begins tomorrow at noon.