February 14, 2018 6:00 am

Rick Zamperin: 2018 Ticats almost a carbon copy of 2017

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats will count upon Brandon Banks (16) and a number of other returning players in 2018.

Claus Andersen/Getty Images

If the opening day of CFL free agency is any indication, it looks like the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are circling the wagons.

Vice-president of football operations Kent Austin managed to re-sign linebackers Larry Dean and Nick Shortill, as well as defensive tackle Ted Laurent, before free agency opened Tuesday at noon.

The Ticats then made a splash by inking kicker Lirim Hajrullahu, who will not only handle kickoffs, field goals and the punting duties, but as a National, his acquisition opens a roster spot for an American.

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READ MORE: Luke Tasker back with Tiger-Cats

Let’s not forget, Hajrullahu also kicked the Grey Cup-winning field goal last season for the Toronto Argonauts, so I guess you can say Hamilton just raided Toronto’s kitchen.

The Cats have re-signed a number of players this offseason. Most notably, quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, and receivers Luke Tasker and Brandon Banks.

READ MORE: Tiger-Cats sign Argos’ Lirim Hajrullahu, re-sign Ted Laurent

In fact, most of the players who made up Hamilton’s roster that went 6-12 last year are still on the team.

For those fans who had been pining for a major roster overhaul, it hasn’t happened. Not even close.

Austin is still in charge and pulling the strings. And he’s banking on the dismal 2017 season just being a blip on the radar.

READ MORE: Hamilton Ticats sign coach June Jones to 3 year deal

The hopes and dreams of a Grey Cup run in 2018 will rest on the shoulders of head coach June Jones and key players like Masoli, Tasker, Banks, Dean, Laurent, Hajrullahu and Simoni Lawrence.

Ticats fans will have to cross their fingers and toes that the squad they booed, jeered and heckled last season will have them cheering this year.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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