The big news coming out of The Hammer this week was the Tiger-Cats successfully signing veteran quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell to a three-year contract. While the quarterback position is a critical area for any team in the CFL, you need more than one player to lead a team to a Grey Cup championship.
Let’s look at Tiger-Cat’s top five areas of need and consider how Hamilton may address those needs.
#1: More talent and depth on the offensive line
Hamilton’s lack of chemistry on the offensive line has recently been the driving factor for the type of quarterback that the Tiger-Cats utilize. When an offensive line is unable to pass protect and the offence is unable to establish a consistent running game, a dual-threat quarterback is a necessity.
Bo Levi Mitchell is a lot of things, but he is not a dual-threat quarterback, and he is coming off multiple seasons in which he missed games with various issues.
If the Tiger-Cats expect Mitchell to lead them to a Grey Cup, then it would be best to build the best offensive line possible to protect their new quarterback. Colin Kelly and Kay Okafor will become free agents on February 14th; both linemen contributed to the improved efforts of the Tiger-Cats offensive line and could be foundational players if re-signed for the 2023 season.
#2: Re-sign playmakers at wide receiver
Coming into the 2022 season, the Tiger-Cats had to rebuild this position group, and during that process, Hamilton found two consistent playmakers. Tim White and Steven Dunbar Jr. both had breakout seasons in 2022, and they are two players that could make or break Hamilton’s offence in 2023.
In addition, Montreal Alouettes receiver Geno Lewis recently declared that he would test the free-agent market, and rumors are beginning to build around Lewis’ interest in teaming up with Bo Levi in Hamilton.
After spending nearly 10% of their salary cap space on Mitchell, the Tiger-Cats need to consider how much they are willing to invest in other position groups.
#3: Commit to maintaining the defensive line
The Tiger-Cats 2022 defensive line was one of the best units in the league against the run game. It would be beneficial for the Tiger-Cats to find a talented edge rusher in free agency. Still, bringing back those defensive linemen entering free agency should be a significant priority. American defensive lineman Malik Carney, Julian Howsare, and Micah Johnson emerged as Hamilton defensive line leaders. The ability to bring these players back for 2023 without breaking the bank would be a big off-season win for the Tiger-Cats.
#4: Re-sign playmakers and leaders in the linebacker unit
Coming into the 2022 season, popular linebacker Simoni Lawrence was a focal point of the Tiger-Cats defence. But with injuries to Lawrence, opportunities were available to other linebackers to rise to another level. Jovan Santos-Knox had a breakout season in the absence of Lawrence, and National linebacker Curtis Newton also surpassed expectations.
The Tiger-Cats need to retain these young, talented players and allow them to lead the Hamilton defence to future success. Simoni Lawrence should not be a priority for the Tiger-Cats; Lawrence’s leadership and community support are vital intangibles that will be difficult to replace when that time comes.
#5: Acquire a legitimate power back
Sean Thomas-Erlington and Wes Hills had moments for the Tiger-Cats, but both were able to establish themselves as consistent playmakers for the offence. However, without a compatible running game, the Tiger-Cat’s offence was behind the chains in most situations. The lack of a running game led to poor pass protection, major turnover issues, and failure to score in the red zone, especially in goal-line situations.
If the Tiger-Cats could commit to finding a legitimate power back, it would give them the ability to improve their offensive efficiency and put themselves in a better position to finish drives and protect leads in the second half of games.
Follow me on Twitter: @AaronSauter7
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