Ti­cats re­turn man takes $50K pay cut

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - DREW ED­WARDS

Bran­don Banks has taken a $50,000 pay cut to stay with the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats, and while it may be dif­fi­cult to find a sil­ver lin­ing in such a trans­ac­tion — more like a lead lin­ing — there is at least some up­side for the diminu­tive re­turn man.

First and fore­most, he still has a job. In most cases where a player takes a salary re­duc­tion of this mag­ni­tude — and rene­go­ti­at­ing deals hap­pens across the CFL — the al­ter­na­tive is out­right re­lease. With train­ing camp just days away, Banks would have been left with pre­cious lit­tle time to find a new home and a new deal.

And while he would have likely found a new home, it would not have been for the $165,000 in “guar­an­teed” money — sign­ing bonus, base salary and hous­ing al­lowance — he was due to make this sea­son. With most teams hav­ing al­ready made their big-ticket off-sea­son sign­ings, find­ing a club with the cap room to make such a deal would have been dif­fi­cult in the extreme.

Fair or not, Banks’ per­ceived value has dropped pre­cip­i­tously. While he has been a divi­sional al­ls­tar the last three sea­sons and the East’s Most Out­stand­ing Spe­cial Teams Player the last two years, that’s largely on the strength of his kick re­turn touch­downs. Banks scored four times in 2015 and three times again last year (none af­ter Aug. 13). They make for great high­lights and have made him a well­known player around the CFL.

But a deeper dive into the stats shows that Banks’ num­bers were, over­all, pedes­trian. His 9.6-yard punt re­turn av­er­age was 12th in the CFL (min­i­mum 30 re­turns) and his 22.6-yard kick­off re­turn av­er­age was fifth. While it’s not en­tirely fair to blame Banks for the per­for­mance of an en­tire unit, he did not look like a par­tic­u­larly dy­namic player for long stretches of last sea­son.

Throw in the off-field is­sues — fam­ily sup­port is­sues that caused him to miss more than a week of train­ing camp and two-game sus­pen­sion for vi­o­lat­ing the league’s sub­stance abuse pol­icy — and the fact that he’s al­ready 29, and Banks’ value de­creases even fur­ther.

Be­cause of his size — listed gen­er­ously at five-foot-seven — he’s not an ev­ery-down re­ceiver and will also be seen as an in­jury risk (de­spite the fact he has been re­mark­ably durable.)

This is one of the hard re­al­i­ties of the CFL. With a hard salary cap in place, elite-level Amer­i­cans gen­er­ally only get elite-level money for as long as they per­form at their very peak. As soon as their per­for­mance be­gins to de­cline — or is even per­ceived to have de­clined — their earn­ing power lessens ex­po­nen­tially. There are just too many other tal­ented Amer­i­can play­ers will­ing to play for the min­i­mum — in­clud­ing, not coin­ci­den­tally, former NFL re­turn man Jalen Saun­ders who signed with the Ti­cats this week.

The Ti­cats, as cur­rently con­structed, are a vet­eran team with a num­ber of qual­ity Cana­di­ans and an elite-level quar­ter­back — a tri­fecta that puts stress on the salary cap in a hurry. When you’re pay­ing Zach Col­laros big bucks as well as lu­cra­tive deals to Luke Tasker and Si­moni Lawrence and Ter­rence To­liver and Ted Lau­rent and Court­ney Stephen and Ryan Bomben ... well, some­thing’s — or some­one’s — got to give.

In this case, it was Bran­don Banks.

The re­worked deal should, how­ever, give Banks at least some mea­sure of job se­cu­rity. As part of the new pact, he re­ceives an $18,000 sign­ing bonus, and be­cause that money counts against the cap, it makes it less likely the team will re­lease him. If he has an­other mon­ster sea­son, he could cash in with one more de­cent pay day as a free agent next Fe­bru­ary.

So much of what hap­pens next will de­pend on how Banks deals with the slight of be­ing forced to redo his deal.

If he’s un­happy, things could un­ravel fast. But if he uses it as mo­ti­va­tion — and this is a player who has dealt with naysay­ers since grade school — he could be­come more danger­ous than ever. NOTES: The Ti­cats have signed in­ter­na­tional de­fen­sive backs Justin Rogers, V’An­gelo Bent­ley and Richard Leonard, as well as na­tional line­backer Marc-Antoine Lau­rin.

Fair or not, Banks’ per­ceived value has dropped pre­cip­i­tously.

MARK TAY­LOR, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Bran­don Banks will be back with the Tiger-Cats in 2017, af­ter agree­ing to a pay cut.

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