Why the Ticats traded John Chick to the Eskimos

In a mostly empty Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ locker room after their demoralizing loss to the Ottawa Redblacks Friday night, defensive end John Chick talked about what had to happen next for a team still winless on the season.

“The veterans, the old heads in the room have to stay positive, continue to preach the same thing,” Chick said. “The biggest thing is that we can’t start turning on each other, you have to keep your head up, keep grinding, keep working. It’s never giving up.”

Less than 48 hours later, the Ticats traded Chick to the Edmonton Eskimos.

From an asset management standpoint, the move makes perfect sense. The team gets instant salary cap savings and a second round pick in the CFL draft for an aging, expensive player whose contract would have been become fully guaranteed after the Labour Day game. Chick is also signed through next season.

The Ticats are 0-8 with Chick in the line up and he has just two sacks and 16 tackles after winning the team’s most outstanding defensive player award in his first year with the team last season. He’s 34-years-old and there are plenty of whispers – chatter, even – that he’s lost a step.

With injuries to their Canadians piling up, the team is playing a national at defensive end much of the time in Justin Capicciotti with a little Conner McGough mixed in. The team has another solid American vet in Adrian Tracy who’s both younger and cheaper than Chick and some new guys on roster (and neg list) they likely want to have a look at.

So yes, it’s all perfectly understandable. But by trading Chick, the Ticats have all but waved the white flag on the 2017 season.

They’ll say otherwise, of course, paying lip service to the remaining statistical possibilities – however slim – of making the post-season while highlighting the putrid nature of the East Division. But the players know and, judging by the reaction on social media Sunday afternoon, so do many of the fans.

Chick is universally respected inside the Ticats locker room and around the CFL, a genuinely good and decent human being whose professionalism and commitment to his craft is unparalleled. Even diminished – and let’s see how he does in Edmonton opposite Odell Willis before making the final call on that – Chick is still a very good player. The Ticats are worse today, on a number of fronts, than they were on Friday.

Let’s also take a second to remember there is a human element to this trade as well. Chick and his wife have eight kids, a number of whom are slated to begin school in Burlington in September. They work hard to stay together as a unit, despite the nomadic nature of pro football, and they’ll now have some difficult choices to make on the family front.

The deal will also heighten the extreme sense of uncertainty that already surrounds this football team. Chick was one of vice president of football operations Kent Austin’s guys and the two had a relationship dating back to the 2007 Saskatchewan Roughriders. Austin talked in glowing terms about Chick at every opportunity and if he can be dealt for cap savings and draft picks, then absolutely nobody is safe.

While it’s mostly true that CFL contracts aren’t guaranteed, there are exceptions for veteran players. Players with six or more years of service, like Chick, have the remainder of their deals for this season locked in after nine games (which happens on Labour Day.) Five-year vets are guaranteed after 10 games, four years after 11.

As is to be expected from a team that is 0-8 on the season, the Ticats have a number of underachieving, relatively high-priced veterans who are uncertain to be with the club in 2018. Paying all of them for the remainder of what now amounts to a glorified exhibition season makes little fiscal or football sense: better to save the cash and look to find a few new (and better) faces for next year.

Chick is a man of faith and often talked about the importance of keeping things in perspective in a much larger sense.

“For me, it’s always easy to see the light. Doesn’t mean it will be easy but it will be all the greater when you come out the other side,” he said Friday. “You just keep putting in the work and will happen.”

Chick has come out the other side, now on a team with legitimate Grey Cup aspirations. For the Ticats, his departure means the work is just beginning.

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.
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Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (1040 Articles)
Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.

38 Comments on Why the Ticats traded John Chick to the Eskimos

  1. Alex Droho // August 20, 2017 at 4:44 pm //

    Great article. Excellent critique and evaluation of the business and personal side of this trade.

  2. Now that Hamilton knows the Edmonton area code they need to get in touch with Mr. Hervey…

  3. The dominoes have started to fall and will continue falling. Clear out the veteran nucleus , get younger and start the rebuild. Many more to come. Better to try and get something for them rather than giving them their outright release. Feel for John Chick and the fact that this causes a lot of family stress like you describe, but he now gets a chance to compete for a Grey Cup rather than being embroiled in this disaster here.

    • RJ Johnson Jr // August 20, 2017 at 5:04 pm //

      Living here in Rider Nation we’ve seen MANY seasons like Hamilton is going through. Yea, chances are that you’re not going to even make the playoffs – but that shouldn’t stop any “true” Tigercats fan from cheering on their team (no matter what). Here’s hoping that they turn things around and maybe can at least spoil some other teams playoff run.

      • Lennywasout // August 20, 2017 at 7:31 pm //

        A voice of reason…

      • Thanks Ray J. You can rest assured that there are still Tigercat fans who stick by their team, win or lose, despite some of the venom dished out here. Go Cats!

  4. Too bad Eric Tillman was not included in this trade. Eskimos can have him back.

  5. Chris Robertson // August 20, 2017 at 5:14 pm //

    Harvey was fired as Edmonton GM some time ago…

  6. Players’ careers will inevitably come to an end. It’s going to happen to everybody. If the Ticats really want to reward Chick, who is indeed a good guy, they can give him a job next year … as a coach, or perhaps a PR person. Send him around to the schools. He’s good with kids. Get him to hold some local football camps for kids. If it’s too soon to have him come back as a coach with Hamilton them maybe something could be worked out with McMaster. Chick has seen a lot. He’s been in the CFL, NFL, and D1 NCAA football. He has a lot of knowledge and experience he could pass on.

  7. Solara2000 // August 20, 2017 at 5:23 pm //

    Nicely balanced article. Good work Drew!

  8. White Horse // August 20, 2017 at 5:33 pm //

    Hey T.Cat fans. Keep supporting your team to the bitter end. Us Stamps fans saw the bottom of the barrel through the the 80’s and it really does suck.
    Your hard earned dollars will pay off…guaranteed!
    Kent really is a good coach. Remember back to back Grey Cup appearances? Remember winning GC against Stamps 1999?

    • IMAN ICE HORSIE // August 20, 2017 at 5:51 pm //

      I’d say bottom of barrel was 2002-2004 under Feterik

      • Evil Empire // August 20, 2017 at 11:11 pm //

        Without a doubt.

        That was a GONGSHOW, and I actually felt bad for the Stamps, and their fans. And, I applauded the fact that the attendance didn’t drop right off the chart. And that they remained the second highest in attendance through that debacle.

        Good fans down there in Cgy.

    • You know it White Horse. By the way, my friend’s niece is the girl who rides the horse at Stamps games.

      • White Horse // August 21, 2017 at 1:19 pm //

        Yes indeed…she looks great riding that white steed up and down the sidelines. Her mother before that also looked mighty fine on that white horse. Stamps have the best touchdown celebration in the league.

  9. Well we went through it in 2003 going 1 and 17 with the only win coming in overtime against the Riders. Ron Lancaster was our coach then and we had a lot of guys who became Ticats legends on that team. Football is a game of momentum and confidence and right now we lack both. I don’t think trading chick is waving the white flag yet. Like Drew said there are some younger cheaper and hungrier players waiting to get there chance. Chick was a great player for us and personally I wish him all the best.

    • CFLs Best since 1990 // August 21, 2017 at 8:21 pm //

      Great comment. Depends how far along the development of the guys waiting in the wings are at to determine how much needs blowing up. Teams that do it too soon can set themselves back, but the CFL is a little different in that teams can reload on the fly easier in this league – or at least used to. Nowadays, the Stampeders achievement of organizational excellence has laid down the gauntlet to the other 8 teams, and the few who are following it are competing with them now. Those who haven’t realized that they have to develop a strong organization through and through are at the bottom of the standings. Austin/Tillman obviously overestimated their recruiting and development.

  10. Well I see our team on the top deck of the titanic with the band playing as we go down in the water. I can think of others we should let go before Chick. Chick is a class act and morally supportive of our team and our city. Not sure whose calling the shots these days but it sure seems like a train wreck. I am a huge ticat fan but I’m ready to pull out the bag for the classic. I think the problem starts at the top. So meany exticats somewhere else. We seem to be a temporary team for good players to launch themselves out of. Good luck to Chick and thanks for your contribution to this team and to the Hammer. Life just isn’t fair. CEE (still mourning Dyakowski)

  11. What other under performing vets are gonna be sent packing prior to Labour day should be an interesting bi week

    • Watching Chick play, he HAS lost a step. Take a look at our Ricky Foley. Sad to see such great players approaching or passing Best Before date.

    • Hopefully the QB, DT, and P/K returner…I’d throw the HC in there to but he can’t trade himself…or can he?

  12. Chick definitely a class player and person. Met him in church one Sunday with his family. Classy family man, but I agree he has slowed a bit but his knowledge could have been used on our younger linemen. Wait a minute we don’t have. Good Luck John.

  13. Chick definitely a class player and person. Met him in church one Sunday with his family. Classy family man, but I agree he has slowed a bit but his knowledge could have been used on our younger linemen. Wait a minute we don’t have any. Good Luck John.

  14. Philip Nicholson // August 20, 2017 at 7:56 pm //

    I think they did him a favor by trading him to a team with a high chance of winning the cup. Silver lining 🙂

  15. This represents the ugly part of football… players are just chess pieces to be used, moved and sacrificed to suit the team’s needs…

    Now having said that… I fully agree with this move… let’s trade Speedy next… need to clear cap space and restock the team with draft picks… would be nice to have 2 or 3 in the first round next year…

  16. KA was gifted an opportunity and made the trade. I don’t know who else in the league can use some of our Cats to fill their voids. We may hold onto a lot of high priced guys til the end of the season. Other teams know our situation and if they don’t need our spare parts at our price they’ll sign them for cheap in the off-season. Chick was a class act and I hope kicks butt in Edmonton!

    • Looking at players who did terrible in Hamilton but are doing okay or well in other locales … it seems a matter of looking for a player that fits another team’s schemes.

      Cassius Vaughn with two INTs and a fumble recovery comes to mind.

  17. Mantis Toboggan // August 20, 2017 at 9:42 pm //

    Best of luck to John and his family class act all the way.please let Banks be next tired of his sulking.

  18. This is a slippery slope to start. The Riders did the same thing in 2015 and look at them now. They’re still not much further ahead 2 years later

  19. 100% Class. I would love to see him hoist another Grey Cup in November. Too bad it won’t be in black and gold. Good luck and God Bless.

  20. Billinburlington // August 20, 2017 at 11:41 pm //

    Frank- well said. I’ll second that.

  21. Good for Chick. Escaped the abyss and entered Zion. Get rid of Collaros and you’ll have more cap room Austin. Since you already have Edmonton’s area code on your radar your next trade should be dial 1-780-FRANKLIN.

    • CFLs Best since 1990 // August 21, 2017 at 8:29 pm //

      I think you’re right… and the Cats may have been better off to work a multi-player deal so that they could bring in Franklin and picks, if possible. QB has unexpectedly become a matter of concern for you guys, though many of your fans seem to think it’s attributable to how (un)well he’s been protected. Maybe the O-Line should be the first area to be addressed, and then find out just how much mojo Collaros has truly lost.

  22. Trading John Chick makes sense, so just to be clear I approve the trade…I just don’t approve of the return. We didn’t get a second round pick just for trading chick, we also had to trade a fifth round pick as well. He might not have great numbers this season, but just look at the team overall, he is still a great defensive player.

    My problem is this sets a bad precedent for top players on our team in the trade market. If we continue to shop our talented players, what will we be getting back in return? I would have liked to see a roster player and a draft pick, especially for players that will make a difference on the field. Also, are we forgetting that Kent Austin and Eric Tillman don’t exactly have a great record of drafting good players, just look at the team on the field…

    I hope we draft a talented young player with this pick, but I’m not going to be naive in thinking the draft will provide a game changer that we wouldn’t be able find in the import market.

    • CFLs Best since 1990 // August 21, 2017 at 8:35 pm //

      I was a little surprised to see the 5th round pick coming back the other way, too. But Chick is 34, and his contract a bit of an albatross, I guess, so maybe that’s seen as two plusses to one.

      Not much trade action in the CFL. My Stamps are often crowded at many positions, and us fans get to watch as players we like go to other teams for free, simply because there’s only so many you can work under the salary cap. Too bad, because trades are exciting and signify change, but most CFL teams seem to build almost exclusively from within.

  23. Lindsay Wilcox // August 21, 2017 at 10:03 am //

    Speedy is NOT that much of a hit to the cap. He re-negotiated and signed a contract for significantly less money before the season. Making much less than Tasker who is making a little less than Greg Ellingson.

  24. It feels like our whole season had to do more with money than winning. What happened to those GC appearing players? Now spread out throughout the league

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