Steinberg’s MMQB: The right fit

Steinberg’s MMQB: The right fit

There is something to be said for a good situation. While Bo Levi had shared with Mitchell his desire to potentially test a free hand, ultimately signing with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats made too much sense. The Ticats made the first move by winning two-time Most Outstanding Player in November. Hamilton and Mitchell agreed to a three-year contract last week.

As attractive as freelancers might have been, I don’t know how many other places would have ticked all the boxes that the tiger-cats do. Hamilton is a great football city with passionate fans. They are led by a highly respected head coach in Orlondo Steinauer. They have top-notch playmakers on both sides of the ball. And the Ticats are determined to win. All of these things are important to Mitchell.

» Hammer Time: Ticats reach agreement with Bo Levi
» Ferguson: What signing Bo means for the Ticats
» O’Leary: Mitchell feels comfortable in Hamilton
» The top 30 outstanding free agents from

When it comes to winning, Hamilton has achieved a lot. The Tiger-Cats have made the playoffs in the last four years and eight of the last nine seasons. More importantly, Hamilton has appeared in two of the last three Gray Cups and is not far off a 15-win season in 2019. And with the CFL’s longest active championship drought, this group is focused only on winning for the next 3 years.

Additionally, Hamilton’s recent winning pedigree correlates with Steinauer’s return from the NCAA. After a season at Fresno State, Steinauer returned to the Tiger-Cats as an assistant head coach in 2018 before taking over as head coach the following season. The team has qualified for the playoffs in all four seasons after missing out in 2017.

Now that Mitchell has been signed and his 2023 salary cap has been determined, Hamilton can get to work and bring back an impressive list of upcoming free agents. With such a big deal to take care of, you can understand why the Ticats have been quiet on that front. But you can bet they’ll start taking names off the list in the next few weeks.

Of particular interest to Mitchell are two receivers coming out of breakout season. Tim White led Hamilton with 1,265 yards and eight touchdowns in 2022, finishing top of the league in both categories. Right next to him was Steven Dunbar, who rushed for 1,000 yards and six touchdowns. Both players need new contracts this year.

The Tiger-Cats also have to take care of a lot on the defensive. D-line mainstays Julian Howsare and Ted Laurent are both upcoming free agents. Ditto for linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox, who has had a breakout season of his own, and perennial All-Star Simoni Lawrence. And in the backfield, Jumal Rolle, Kameron Kelly and Ciante Evans all need new deals.

Taking care of Mitchell’s situation feels like the first domino to fall in Hamilton’s offseason, and I expect a good number of those free agents will step down before February 14. The addition of a player of Mitchell’s caliber certainly won’t hurt things for the Ticats.

New man up

With the signing of Mitchell, the number one player on’s top 30 free agent list is now off the board. That leaves receiver Eugene Lewis as the highest-ranked player still available when free agency opens in just over two weeks in 2023. Now it’s down to business for Lewis and the Montreal Alouettes.

“I’m not going to beat around the bush, there’s going to be other teams that want me this year,” Lewis told the Montreal Gazette in November. “We’re not going to sit here and pretend this isn’t real. Montreal is in the driver’s seat at the moment because I’m still under contract. i know how old i am We’ve only been in our prime as gamers for so long, and we’ve only been doing so for so long. At some point you have to be a little selfish.”

You can’t blame Lewis for that. He’s 29 and coming off a monster season in which he finished third with 1,303 yards and 10 touchdowns. Lewis has never had more impact and deserves to be paid for what he is: a human highlight reel and one of the CFL’s elite receivers.

As Lewis said, Alsen are in the driver’s seat, and not just because they have exclusive negotiating rights until mid-February. Lewis has spoken out multiple times about how much he loves playing in Montreal. On top of that, the Alouettes are building something and after a couple of really dark years, they made the playoffs in two straight seasons.

But if Lewis doesn’t get the deal he’s looking for, he has plenty of open market options. Kenny Lawler is the latest example of a receiver going into free agency and getting paid, like he did when Edmonton signed him in 2022 after a breakout season in Winnipeg. Make no mistake: Lewis has a lot of cards here and knows he’ll make a big deal elsewhere when it comes down to it.

The smart money stays with a return to Montreal. If that doesn’t happen, a few other East Division teams present interesting landing spots. Joining Mitchell and the Tiger-Cats would be intriguing to complement their new quarterback. And I’m also looking at Ottawa. The REDBLACKS will have a healthy Jeremiah Masoli, and sophomore general manager Shawn Burke would love to see his team avoid the playoffs for a fourth straight year.

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