The Hamilton Tiger-Cats announced that Canadian receiver Andy Fantuz will return to the club this season, just like Dunk and I said they would. But there’s a twist: at least for now, his title will be “coordinator of player development” and he’ll be working in the front office. It’s raised some eyebrows…
Sources tell me Fantuz fully intends to play this season once the torn ligament in his knee is fully healed. The injury occurred on Oct. 28 with surgery taking place on Nov. 24 and the recovery period is typically six months for the super human and 18 months for those with complications. Fantuz’s rehab is reportedly going well but I think the most optimistic target for a return date is Labour Day and mid-October is probably more likely.
So why give him a front office title, why not just sign him to standard player contract?
Fantuz’s salary will not count against the salary cap while a member of the front office but the Ticats could have put Fantuz on the veterans’ injured exempt list in training camp, meaning he wouldn’t have taken one of the valuable spots on the 75-man roster (the team did the same thing with quarterback Zach Collaros and safety Craig Butler last year.) He would have then moved to the six-game injured list, where his salary would not count against the cap.
But players on the six game injured list need to miss the full six games in order for their salary to remain exempt from cap: if they come back early, then the entire amount from the full six games counts against the cap. But because Fantuz isn’t on the six-game, the Ticats will have more flexibility on when he returns: they’ll have to sign him to a player contract before he can practice with the team but they’ll likely do that a couple of weeks before they think he’s ready to play.
The Ticats could also, in theory, save some cap money by paying Fantuz a sizeable salary as a member of the front office, then sign him to minimum contract if and when he’s ready to play. Fantuz’s total compensation could be roughly the same but depending on how many games he suits up for, the difference in the pro-rated salaries – and therefore the cap charge – could be significant. Front office salaries and player contracts aren’t made public so we may never know the structure of the deal, though the CFL would have access to all the details.
There are other advantages. By giving Fantuz a defined front office role, they make him more than just an injured player helping out – it’s recognition his contribution goes further than that. He has a long-standing relationship with head coach Kent Austin – they won a Grey Cup together in Saskatchewan in 2007 – and he’s a favourite of quarterback Zach Collaros. He knows this offence very well. When I spoke to offensive coordinator Stefan Ptaszek at mini-camp about his steep learning curve last season, Fantuz was one of two players he mentioned as being particularly helpful (Luke Tasker was the other.) Ptaszek is in just his second year on the job and support from Fantuz could certainly be an asset.
What’s in it for Fantuz? Well, he gets a paycheque while he rehabs his knee, so that’s nice. He gets some valuable experience as precursor to his post-football life and he gets to not just be around the football team but to have a defined role in helping that football team – and that could make a psychological difference in his rehab. The biggest concern for a player like Fantuz is that he’ll push himself too hard, too fast – Collaros was wired like that, too – and by giving him another way to contribute could help things go smoothly.
The CFL signed off on the deal so that should settle any lingering questions about the legality of the situation.
I’m told the CFL approved the hiring, the salary and is fully aware.
— Derek Taylor 🇨🇦🏈 (@DTonSC) May 18, 2017
Austin and Fantuz are meeting with the media tomorrow so we’ll get the official explanation on Friday.