Depth is always a good thing to have in the CFL, but in a league with a tight salary cap, you can only keep so many high-profile players at a particular spot. Thus, when a team stocks up on linebackers the way Hamilton has so far this offseason (acquiring imports Simoni Lawrence and Marcellus Bowman, plus non-import DE/LB Shomari Williams), it seems clear that the other shoe is about to drop on a current player. That appears to have happened Wednesday with the news from middle linebacker Rey Williams' agency that the Tiger-Cats are set to release him. Williams played well in Hamilton over the last two years, but it looks like the Tiger-Cats have decided to go in another direction, and that could start to bring some clarity to their linebacking picture.
Exactly what the Hamilton defence is going to look like in 2013 is still somewhat up in the air, but we're starting to see glimpses of what the Tiger-Cats' plans might be. The most natural fit at Williams' old middle linebacker spot might be Lawrence, who backed up J.C. Sherritt at that spot in Edmonton last year. However, that isn't a certainty, as there's still a logjam at outside linebacker; import stars Jamall Johnson and Markeith Knowlton are still under contract, but the team also has non-import Kevin Eiben (who started at one of the outside slots in their final game last season), and imports Bowman (once he recovers from knee surgery) and Dominique Harris. It's certainly possible that one of those players could slide over to the MLB slot.
The Tiger-Cats are also likely to get 2012 draft pick Frederic Plesius if he doesn't wind up in the NFL, and he shone at middle linebacker at Laval. Of course, Shomari Williams has played both middle and outside linebacker before too, but all indications are that the Tiger-Cats are planning to use him at defensive end given the Canadian talent they're stockpiling at that position. At the moment, the most logical linebacking corps for Hamilton at the start of 2013 might be Johnson-Lawrence-Knowlton, but it's far from certain that that will come to pass, and things could get very complicated once Bowman returns. Rey Williams' release starts to clear things up, but the linebacking waters in Hamilton are still somewhat murky.
What does this mean for Rey Williams? Well, it seems he can still play pretty effectively: he finished third in the league with 94 tackles last season while adding three sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery, and his play was one of the few highlights on a terrible Hamilton defence. That doesn't mean he'll necessarily find another great CFL gig, though. Middle linebacker in particular is a position many teams like to address early, and there aren't a lot of obvious voids for him to fill. He may have some good years left, as he just turned 32, but his future success likely depends on the situation he winds up in. It would seem likely that some team will take a chance on Williams at least as a backup, but just what kind of role he gets is up for debate, and it may have more to do with teams' positional plans than Williams' talent. It's going to be interesting to see where he winds up.
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