From Drew Edwards
Grant's new deal a source of motivation
[b]Veteran receiver Bakari Grant does not sound particularly happy about the new contract he signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Monday.
And that could be good news for the ball club.
Grant is getting what he clearly considers to be less money than he deserves after posting three solid and one spectacular season with the Ticats. Yes, he wanted to be back and, yes, he had offers to go elsewhere. But after languishing on the open market for more than a month — and watching other, less-established receivers get big money — he finally decided to return to the only CFL outfit he's ever known.
"I expressed that I wanted to play here and I was looking for a two-year contract but if I couldn't get what I thought was market value, then I was going to go for a one-year deal," Grant said. "So I took the one-year deal."
Over his first four seasons, Grant has been a consistent contributor with 207 receptions for 2,535 yards and 12 touchdowns. His best season came in 2013 when he led the team and set career highs in receptions (69) and receiving yards (947) and was named an East Division All-Star.
Still just 27, the essential question remains: Is Grant a solid, if unspectacular, player destined for a string of 50-catch seasons or is the one big year a harbinger of things to come? The one-year deal means Grant is convinced it's the latter.
"You're fighting for each paycheque, fighting to feed your family so that's motivating all by itself," said Grant, a father of two. "It's going to be more intense this year."
And while the contract talks may have left a bruise or two on the ego, Grant makes it clear that he wants to be in Hamilton and holds no grudges.
The California native is popular with fans and teammates — his Twitter timeline lit up Monday with plenty of support from both — and says the encouraging words he received during the process played a role in his decision to return.
"Fans watch the game for the emotion of it and I think that I bring that, no matter if I'm catching the ball, blocking, making tackles," said Grant, who has also been active in the team's community programs. "I think people like the way I play."
Grant has also been around long enough to understand the economics of the league: Canadian players are sought after because of their relative scarcity while the rest of the free agent dollars are often consumed by quarterbacks and elite-level U.S.-born players. That puts the squeeze on guys like Grant.
"I think the next step for the league is pay quality Americans for what they contribute to a team. That's how you maintain quality on the field." Grant said. "When you see what some guys signed for, I don't think you can say we get less money. But it's less consistent for American players based on talent."
Notoriously intense on the field, Grant says he plans to channel the frustrations of free agency onto the field where another banner season would set him up for the contract he feels he's earned.
"When something like this happens, you can either settle for it or continue to hold your value high and go prove it to everybody," Grant said. "That's the approach I'm taking."[/b]
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