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Tiger-Cats Off-season: Could Hamilton’s negotiation list hold the keys to future success?

As CFL teams are preparing for the free agency period to begin every team needs to assess their strengths, weaknesses, needs, and prospects for addressing those needs. Most teams will use free agency and the CFL draft to build their roster. One of the least used methods team use for roster building is their negotiation list.

The negotiation list is an aspect of the CFL that is significantly different from other professional football leagues. Essentially, the CFL earmark a wish list of prospects that they would like to claim the signing rights for relative to the other teams in the league. When a player is added to a team’s negotiation list, that team has the right to be the first CFL team to attempt to sign that player to their roster. Recently, the trend has been that CFL teams will make a minimal effort to sign these players, and when they do they offer these athletes the CFL rookie minimum contract.

The combination of an apathetic approach to the players on the negotiation list, and an offer that does not seem appealing prevents those players from being added to active CFL rosters.

Looking at the Hamilton Tiger-Cats negotiation list several players would help them close the gap concerning some areas that they struggled in during the 2022 season. Throughout the season the Tiger-Cats consistently had a solid defence, and their special team’s units improved every week. Offensively, the Tiger-Cats struggled with inconsistency and turnovers, and at the same time could not produce big plays in key moments.

Coming into 2022 the focus was on the Tiger-Cats offensive line, but the offensive line showed significant improvement and played good football down the stretch. The quarterback and running back positions did not produce at a level that the Tiger-Cats needed them to produce at, and those are positions that need to be upgraded in 2023. Of course, for these improvements to be meaningful, Hamilton will need to bring back their defence, offensive line, and receivers, all of which have several players entering free agency.

Let’s take a look at the needs of the Tiger-Cats and how players on their negotiation list could be the best solution.


Coming into the 2022 season, Dane Evans was named as the starting quarterback for the Tiger-Cats and there were high hopes that he could lead the Hamilton offence successfully. Unfortunately, Evans consistently folded in pressure situations committing numerous turnovers and failing to make big plays.

The Tiger-Cats response was to trade for the expiring contract of Bo Levi Mitchell, which had been benched by the Calgary Stampeders during the 2022 season. This move initially brought a lot of attention until it was realized that the Tiger-Cats did not make any progress concerning obtaining Mitchell, and may have caused tension with Dane Evans in the process of this transaction.

The question is, why are the Tiger-Cats attempting to replace a failing quarterback with an older yet mostly equally failing quarterback? Mitchell has a few Grey Cups to his name with Calgary but those are not recent accomplishments.

Rather than fighting for scraps at one of the most important positions for a CFL team, the Tiger-Cats could be using their resources to secure a younger more talented option. Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Jalon Daniels has had a breakout season in 2022. His talent and athleticism could be a great fit for the CFL.

Austin Reed is the quarterback for Western Kentucky, and he has produced some of the best offensive stats in NCAA football. Kedon Slovis has been a successful quarterback for the Pittsburgh Panthers, and when not dealing with injuries, has been an impressive talent. These quarterbacks are on the Tiger-Cats negotiation list and could be a long-term solution at quarterback.

Running Backs

Another area that the Tiger-Cats need to upgrade their offence is at running back. It is popular to criticize the Hamilton offensive line, but it is difficult to play well on the line when the offence is consistently behind the chains and the defence knows that you have to pass. Running backs that can get the Tiger-Cats ahead of the chains would allow them to become a much more efficient offence. Josh Johnson was a very successful running back for Lousiana-Monroe and is currently a free agent.

Xavier Jones from Southern Methodist is another effective back that is currently available after spending some time with the Los Angeles Rams. If the Tiger-Cats were able to secure one or both of these backs they would be quickly improving their running game and pass protection giving their offence a chance to flourish.

Wide Receivers

During the 2022 season, the Tiger-Cats revamped their wide receiver group, and Steven Dunbar Jr. and Tim White quickly became the leaders of the Hamilton offence. The CFL is a heavy-passing league so while the Tiger-Cats may be happy with their receiving unit there is always room for improvement. Kekoa Crawford was a standout receiver for the University of California and is currently available as a free agent.

Former Washington Huskies receiver Aaron Fuller is also on the negotiation list along with Kansas City Chiefs receiver Omar Bayless. It is most likely not realistic for Hamilton to attract talent away from NFL rosters, but adding Crawford could be a big addition to their already successful receiver room.

Defensive Line

One of the strongest units for the Tiger-Cats in 2022 was their defensive line. Currently most of the top playmakers on that defensive line unit will be listed as free agents. On the negotiation list, the Tiger-Cats have Kamara Azur who played collegiately at Kansas and has experience with the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL. If the Tiger-Cats could add Azur to their roster they would be getting a significant boost in talent within this position group. The defensive line is an area where roster depth is critically important due to the high risk of injuries occurring every week.

Defensive Backs

The Hamilton defensive back group is full of talent, and while a few players are heading into free-agent status most will be returning. But in the CFL you can never have too many playmakers in the defensive secondary.

Former Virginia Tech defensive back Greg Stroman is on the Tiger-Cats negotiation list. Stroman would bring proven playmaker abilities, and also NFL experience due to a sting he served with Washington. If the Tiger-Cats want to make significant improvements to their roster this is an example of how players on the negotiation list could give them an inside edge over the other CFL teams.

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Aaron Sauter Reporter
Aaron Sauter is a 23-veteran high school football coach that is also an fan of all levels of football. He is especially interested in alternative football leagues like the CFL, UFL, and IFL. Aaron enjoys analyzing innovative schemes on offense and defense during his free time.
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