EDMONTON - For a team that went through so much turmoil in 2012, a surprising trend is emerging for the Edmonton Eskimos.
A lot of players want to stay with the team.
On Tuesday, defensive end Marcus Howard became the fourth key piece of the Eskimo defence to re-sign with the Canadian Football League club, bypassing next month’s free-agency period.
Terms of Howard’s contract haven’t been made public, but it’s believed the 27-year-old took a two-year deal with an option.
“For me personally, I just think the head coach (Kavis Reed) is a great guy, I love playing for him,” said Howard, who flew to Edmonton on Tuesday to take a physical before signing his new contract.
“I don’t know how the coaching staff is going to be next year, things always change, but the D-line coach (Kit Lathrop) ,if he comes back, that’d be great. You just never know.
“I love playing for (Lathrop), he’s almost like a father figure in my eyes. The training room staff, those guys made me feel real comfortable.”
Howard joins linebackers J.C. Sherritt and T.J. Hill plus free safety Donovan Alexander as defensive players who have bypassed free agency and re-upped with the Eskimos. Considering that Edmonton went 7-11 last year and struggled almost weekly on offence, it’s surprising more players aren’t waiting until free agency begins on Feb. 15 to see what kind of offers are out there.
“I think we’re trying to build something real special as Eskimos, but especially on defence. We have guys who can play at every position, so I think that’s what made it easier for me to sign here,” Howard said.
Howard fought a hamstring injury through the majority of the 2012 season. He suited up in six games, started four, and had six tackles and a quarterback sack. It was a marked drop-off from when he joined the Eskimos for their fifth game in 2011 and still managed to lead the team in sacks, with 11.
Clearly, the healthy version of Howard was enough to convince Eskimo general manager Ed Hervey to give the six-foot-one, 245-pounder a hike in pay.
“Yeah, it’s a good feeling,” Howard said. “I just wanted to get that process over with. It took a while for us to get a deal done, but I was just glad that those guys had a little bit of faith in me, especially after the year I had last year.
“I know I can play this game and I know they still feel like I could play, so I think that’s one of the main reasons that a deal got done. I love the city and I love the organization, so it made perfect sense for me that if I was going to play in the CFL, that I’d be back.”