The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have not won a Grey Cup championship since 1999. In 2023 the Tiger-Cats will be hosting the Grey Cup championship, and after losing in the championship game in 2019 and 2021 the pressure is on for the Tiger-Cats to put together a championship team.
A large part of that process involves securing players that helped the Tiger-Cats qualify for the 2022 playoffs and releasing the players that failed to produce. It is well known that the Tiger-Cats have had a strong defence for the last several years, but now many of those players are due to be free agents. Offensively, the Tiger-Cats need to keep those playmakers that stepped up in 2022 but also make adjustments to continue to improve their offence. Let’s take a look at the Tiger-Cats 2023 Free Agents.
One of the most visible, and criticized, position groups for the Tiger-Cats is their quarterback position. Hamilton has had many opportunities to make the best move at quarterback, but they always seem to choose to pick less obvious answers.
This off-season the Tiger-Cats made the move to acquire Bo Levi Mitchell‘s expiring contract from the Calgary Stampeders, but it seems that they have a lot of work to do if they want to sign him in February. Backup quarterback Matt Shiltz is also a free agent, and Shiltz performed well as a backup in 2022. Regardless, of what happens at starting quarterback it would be a good investment to bring back Matt Shiltz as the backup in 2023.
To start the 2022 season the Hamilton offence struggled out of the gate. But their wide receiver core developed throughout the season and stepped up their level of play. Steven Dunbar Jr. and Tim White were big parts of this turnaround, and without a doubt, the Tiger-Cats need to bring these players back in 2023. David Ungerer emerged as an effective role player for the Tiger-Cats offence, but how the Tiger-Cats approach him will be based on his price tag. Canadian wide receiver Lemar Durant struggled with injuries in 2022, but a healthy Durant helps the Tiger-Cats manage the Ratio Rule.
The Hamilton running back position is another group that has been criticized for several years. In 2022 the quarterbacks led the Tiger-Cats offence in rushing for most games. American Wes Hills and Canadian Sean Thomas-Erlington did show flashes of playmaker ability. Canadian Myles Manalo has not been a significant contributor to the Tiger-Cats. This is a position that Hamilton will need to find ways to upgrade in the 2023 off-season.
The most improved unit of the Hamilton offence in 2022 was their offensive line. While the Tiger-Cats seemed to make personnel moves every week, eventually they built a functional offensive line that gave them a chance to compete against the best teams in the CFL. American Colin Kelly was acquired mid-season from the Edmonton Elks, and he eventually became a solid right tackle for Hamilton by the end of the season. In the 2022 off-season, the Tiger-Cats acquired centre Kay Okafor, and while battling injuries he did have moments that showed that he could be a good answer for the Tiger-Cats offensive line.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats 2022 defence boasted one of the most productive defensive lines in the CFL. There is still room for improvement, but the first step will be maintaining the talent that has helped them be successful. American defensive lineman Malik Carney, Julian Howsare, Micah Johnson, and Ted Laurent are all free agents this offseason. Carney, Howsare, and Johnson all made significant improvements to the Tiger-Cats defence during the 2022 playoff push. Canadian defensive lineman Valentin Gnahoua is also due to be a free agent.
One of the most recognizable players for the Tiger-Cats, Simoni Lawrence, is a free agent. Lawrence struggled with injuries throughout the 2022 season and was heavily criticized for failing to produce game-breaking defensive plays. In his absence, a new group of linebacking talent stepped up to fill the role that Lawrence once played. American linebackers Kameron Kelly and Jovan Santos-Knox, both had a breakout season in 2022 and were selected for post-season honors. Both are free agents in 2023. Canadian linebacker Curtis Newton was a successful role player, especially on special teams, and he is a free agent as well.
The proven leader of the Tiger-Cats defence is their defensive backfield, and that is a natural consequence of the CFL being a pass-heavy league. Many of their defensive backs are set to return in 2023, but two of their key players are due to be free agents. American defensive backs Ciante Evans and Jumal Rolled are both listed as free agents for the Tiger-Cats in 2023. This is a critical area that the Tiger-Cats will need to make good decisions with their personnel if they plan to play for the 2023 Grey Cup.
One of the biggest holes that the Tiger-Cats needed to fill for their 2022 roster was in the area of kicking and punting. Coming out of the pre-season those holes were not solidified, and Hamilton made several moves well into the season to try and address these areas. Kicker/Punter Michael Domagala was their most common answer to these situations. Domagala started the season as the placekicker, but as the placekicker position was upgraded, he transitioned into the punter role. The Canadian Domagala had an effective season as a punter and ended up finishing the season in that position. It will be interesting to see how the Tiger-Cats choose to address this position group.
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