TORONTO – Free agent DB Evan McCollough has agreed to terms on a contract with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Ticats have made it a point of emphasis this off-season to address their issues on the defensive side of the football. The team also signed LB Shomari Williams and DB Deon Beasley in an attempt to solidify a defence that found themselves ranked in the basement of many defensive categories in 2012. The departure of McCollough leaves a gaping hole in a Toronto Argonauts secondary that has already lost DB Ahmad Carroll to retirement earlier this off-season. For three seasons, McCollough provided the Boatmen with consistency on the back-end. The 25-year-old had started in 47 of 48 games as a member of the Argonauts while racking up 159 defensive tackles, five interceptions, and four fumble recoveries.
McCollough was also named the Argos Most Outstanding Rookie in 2010 as he recorded 70 tackles, one interception, and two fumble recoveries. In 2012, McCollough registered 56 tackles and two interceptions including a game-sealing pick against Saskatchewan on October 27, 2012 that clinched the Argonauts’ spot in the 100th Grey Cup playoffs.
With the departure of McCollough, the Argonauts’ currently have five defensive backs on the roster, two of which will be rookies to the Canadian Football League in 2013. Defensive backs Bryant Nnabuife and Jason Teague were signed on February 11 by the Argonauts and both men will likely have an opportunity to obtain a starting position on the Double Blue defence. Sophomore’s Patrick Watkins, Jalil Carter, and Pacino Horne round out the current Argonauts’ secondary.
The Boatmen entered the 2012 season with four rookie defensive starters, three of which started at defensive back and cornerback. The Argonauts’ defensive secondary continued to develop chemistry as the season progressed and by the conclusion of the 2012 regular season, they had registered the second-most interceptions in the CFL. While Chris Jones has proven to have the ability to stabilize an inexperienced defence, the lack of depth at the defensive back position is certainly a concern.
There is a limited amount of defensive backs currently available in the free-agent market. With Dwight Anderson, Deon Beasley, Tyron Brackenridge, and Geoff Tisdale having already signed on the dotted line, the market for defensive backs has become noticeably thin.
Depth is certainly an intricate part of any successful football team. In 2012, the Argonauts’ were one of the deepest teams in the Canadian Football League. When CB Patrick Watkins suffered a lower-body injury in the Eastern Semi-Final against Edmonton, DB Jalil Carter assumed a larger role for the Argonauts’ as he started in both the Eastern Final against Montreal and the 100th Grey Cup against Calgary.
Cauchy Muamba and Chris Rwabukamba are a pair of defensive backs who still remain on the open market. The addition of either of these men would provide much-needed stability to a thin Argonauts’ secondary. Rwabukamba was a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats from 2011-2012 and registered 32 total tackles in twenty regular season games. Muamba has spent the past three seasons with the B.C. Lions where he has recorded 65 total tackles and three interceptions.
The Argonauts’ have also lost LB Tristan Black to free agency as the 28-year-old has agreed to terms on a contract with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Black ranked eighth in the Canadian Football League with seventeen special teams tackles in 2012. Newly acquired LB James Yurichuk will likely replace Black on special teams and will offer depth at the linebacker position.
Following the re-signing of RB Chad Kackert, Jim Barker’s attention has shifted to the defensive side of the football where Ricky Foley remains a free agent and the need for assistance in the secondary is imperative.
It is difficult to believe that Jim Barker would be content with entering training camp with an inadequate amount of defensive backs to solidify the Argonauts secondary. Jim Barker has already stated that he is not particularly an advocate of free agency but he may have to dip into the market in order to resolve the Argos’ current defensive back situation.
– Daniele Franceschi –