February 22, 2024

Landry: An inside look at Tim White’s free agency process

The Canadian Press

Tim White wouldn’t mind clearing something up.

For the All-Star receiver, re-signed by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this week, the process was just the process. No hard feelings, no hard luck, no reason for anyone to feel there was anything more to contract negotiations than just process, and market forces and communication and, eventually, mutual understanding.

And finding out just what kind of financial footing the 29-year-old was on in an ever-changing marketplace.

“There’s nothing wrong with me, you know, seeking the best opportunity for my future,” said White during a phone conversation from Los Angeles, the day after agreeing to a two-year deal with the Ticats.

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Now that the two-time Hamilton nominee for Most Outstanding Player has his future settled, he can turn his focus to getting ready for training camp, excited to be part of an offence schemed by new head coach Scott Milanovich. And eager to see what heights he and quarterbacks Bo Levi Mitchell and Taylor Powell can scale, having already gotten used to each other, to an extent, last season.

“It’s great that we’re familiar with each other to this point with Bo and Taylor Powell,” said White. “That’s a good thing to have. Be ready to show up for training camp and let’s get it from there.”

“I’m kind of excited to see what Bo is going to bring this year and just the guys around me.”

From the inside, White said, there was a cordial, respectful back and forth between he and the Ticats this winter, stretching back to his exit interview with the team at season’s end. The Ticats expressed an interest in bringing their dominating game-breaker back and White was agreeable to that, provided they could come to terms he felt were fair, of course.

White was aware that a deal was not likely to be had, however, prior to the Free Agency Communication Window opening on February 4. If not having a deal in place had Ticat fans nervous about the team’s chances for keeping White in black and gold, it did not have the team nor White feeling that way.

“I knew, going into it, that they wanted their strategy to be to let the market determine how they’re going to go about their approach,” he said of the Ticats.

From the outside, there were opinions flying around that White’s contract demands were unreasonably high. From his standpoint, they were not, considering the reported deals given to receivers in his class – players like Edmonton’s Eugene Lewis and Winnipeg’s Kenny Lawler – during previous off-seasons.

It’s not unreasonable for a man who hauled in 1,269 yards in passes (fourth in the CFL) and led the league with 94 receptions, last season, to think that way.

But some of the opinions White saw out there during free agency were critical and he did find that frustrating, answering those opinions with a social media post that read, in part, “I see a lot of negatives on my name.”

“I felt like people were kind of hoping that I would fail throughout this process,” said White. “One thing that I knew is that I would have an opportunity in the CFL no matter what.”

If the market for elite receivers – and White is as elite as they come – had changed, he and the Ticats knew they’d find out when free agency hit.

It had and they did.

With the CFL’s leading receiver in 2023, Dalton Schoen, agreeing to what have been described as team-friendly financial terms with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the market had been re-defined. At least for this off-season.

So the process continued, with the Ticats making their offer to White with, apparently, just one other CFL team seriously making a bid for the star receiver.

“As far as I know there was only one other team, and that was Ottawa, who really showed interest,” said White. “Down to the last minute, they showed interest in bringing me in. But you know, at the end of the day it just wasn’t enough to move me.”

“In the end, the Ticats’ offer was stronger. And I feel like the situation was best for me,” he said.

In the end, White ended up where he’s been all along during his CFL career, with the team that’s seen him haul in 225 passes for 3,308 yards over three previous seasons, being named an East Division All-Star three times and a CFL All-Star twice.

He looks forward to what can be accomplished by he and returning receivers like Terry Godwin, Kiondrė Smith and Omar Bayless. Looking forward as well to the contributions of free agent receivers Luther Hakunavanhu and Brendan O’Leary-Orange, brought in from Calgary and Winnipeg, respectively.

“I can’t wait to see what their game looks like in person and see how they approach the game in person,” White said of his new teammates.

“I’m excited to see what our defence is going to look like this year,” he added when asked to size up the Ticats’ prospects for 2024. White knows what a better defence can mean to a receiver; more possessions, more touches, more opportunities on offence.

That is what is left to look forward to, now that contract negotiations have been put to bed.

“I give great thanks to my teammates,” said White. “Throughout the process they continued to reach out and just express their want for me to return, their want for me to be there. I know that there were a lot of guys who did want me back, so that was obviously extremely pleasant.”

“I’m grateful to be surrounded by an organization that shows a lot of love to me and teammates that show a lot of love to me as well.”

And who know, like White does, that the process is just the process and it needn’t be thought of as anything more than that.

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