Free agent door starts swing­ing

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - DREW ED­WARDS

On the day be­fore free agency opened, Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats vice-pres­i­dent of foot­ball op­er­a­tions Kent Austin said the team was fo­cused on a cou­ple of things: a few se­lect tar­gets on other teams and get­ting a cou­ple of his cur­rent play­ers un­der con­tract. Done and done. The Ticats shored up a sus­pect sec­ondary on Tues­day, adding al­ls­tar de­fen­sive back Ab­dul Kan­neh from the Ot­tawa Red­blacks — a divi­sion ri­val — while re-sign­ing vet­eran Emanuel Davis, one of the team’s few bright spots on the back end last sea­son.

“He’s a very ag­gres­sive, com­pet­i­tive foot­ball player, plays the game the way we want it to be played,” Austin said of Kan­neh, who he ac­knowl­edged was a Ti­cat pri­or­ity. “He can play mul­ti­ple po­si­tions and will bring an in­ten­sity to the sec­ondary that will help with that group.”

The 26-year-old Kan­neh has ap­peared in 43 games with the Ot­tawa Red­blacks over the past three sea­sons, reg­is­ter­ing 138 de­fen­sive tack­les, 12 in­ter­cep­tions, three sacks and five forced fum­bles. He was an East Divi­sion all-star last sea­son, and earned a CFL all-star nod in 2015. He can both cor­ner and half­back.

Davis played in 17 games with the Ticats last sea­son and has started 53 games in his four sea­sons with the club. He has 10 in­ter­cep­tions the last two sea­sons, in­clud­ing four re­turns for touch­downs. He also has 173 tack­les, 24 spe­cial teams tack­les and was a CFL all-star in 2015 and an East all-star last sea­son.

Ac­cord­ing to sources, both play­ers were pur­sued heav­ily by both the Ticats and the Ar­gos be­fore ul­ti­mately de­cid­ing to come to Hamil­ton. Linebacker Si­moni Lawrence also tweeted that he had been lob­by­ing Davis to re­turn to the fold, then cel­e­brated his re­turn. “We came to the Ticats to­gether go­ing on our fifth year with each other we keep each other hon­est and ac­count­able very happy!!” he wrote.

There were also a num­ber of de­par­tures. Quar­ter­back Jeff Mathews signed with Toronto while fel­low pivot Ja­cory Har­ris inked a deal with Mon­treal. De­fen­sive tackle Drake Nevis and re­ceiver Matt Coates de­parted for Win­nipeg, while run­ning back Ken­dial Lawrence re­turned to Ed­mon­ton. Cana­dian linebacker Ron Omara signed with Ot­tawa.

The loss of Nevis is likely the most sig­nif­i­cant, given that he started 14 games last year and that Ticats have no ob­vi­ous Amer­i­can re­place­ment in wait­ing. The two quar­ter­backs were buried on the depth chart be­hind Zach Col­laros and Jeremiah Ma­soli and young­ster Ever­ton Gol­son, signed last year, needs an op­por­tu­nity to de­velop.

“There are some rec­og­niz­able names but we have to make an eval­u­a­tion on where they fit in the com­po­si­tion of our ros­ter this year and where we’re go­ing to spend our money,” Austin said. “We had other pri­or­i­ties and most of those pri­or­i­ties were set be­fore free

agency.”

Austin said the team will likely look to add a cou­ple other pieces, though they may wait un­til the mar­ket cools down a lit­tle. For­mer Ti­cat Ter­rell Sink­field, who signed with the B.C. Lions when he re­turned from the NFL last Septem­ber, could be a tar­get, and the team continues to make over­tures to Cana­dian re­ceiver Andy Fan­tuz.

“We’ve had dis­cus­sions and ex­tended an of­fer to him but it’s fluid right now,” Austin said. “It’s not im­mi­nent.”

Notes: There were a num­ber of key sign­ings on the first day of CFL free agency, in­clud­ing the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers sign­ing of­fen­sive line­man Derek Dennis (Cal­gary) and Cana­dian run­ning back Kienan LaFrance (Ot­tawa), the Red­blacks adding Khalil Bass (Win­nipeg) and Ron Omara (Hamil­ton), re­ceivers Kenny Shaw and Dion­tae Spencer and de­fen­sive back A.J. Jef­fer­son (all Toronto) and de­fen­sive back Adam Berger (Cal­gary).

RICHARD LAUTENS, TORONTO STAR

The Tiger-Cats signed CFL all-star de­fen­sive back Ab­dul Kan­neh from the Ot­tawa Red­blacks.

JOHN WOODS, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Hamil­ton backup QB Jeff Mathews, be­low, has signed with the Arg­onauts.

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