Du­rant deal sends Rider Na­tion reel­ing

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - GLOBE SPORTS - BILL BEA­CON MON­TREAL

Pivot’s move to Mon­treal solves a prob­lem un­der cen­tre for the Als, as­sum­ing they can sign him but hangs Saskatchewan out to dry

Dar­ian Du­rant’s move from Saskatchewan to Mon­treal may have solved the Alouettes’ quar­ter­back wor­ries, while the Roughrid­ers’ un­cer­tainty un­der cen­tre is just get­ting started.

Du­rant, who played 11 sea­sons in Regina and helped the Roughrid­ers to two Grey Cups, was dealt to Mon­treal on Fri­day for a fourth-round draft pick in 2017 and a con­di­tional pick in 2018.

The catch is that Mon­treal still needs to sign the 34-year-old, who can be­come a free agent on Feb. 14.

If he doesn’t, the first ma­jor move by new Als gen­eral man­ager Kavis Reed could end in dis­as­ter.

“For the sake of this fran­chise, we did our due dili­gence,” said Reed. “We an­a­lyzed all the risks of do­ing this and we feel we put our­selves in a bet­ter po­si­tion to have his rights now and not to have some­one else in­tro­duced into the fray. We have a month to ne­go­ti­ate and we are very op­ti­mistic that we can get some­thing done.”

It was ex­pected that the Alouettes would go into the sea­son with Ver­non Adams, a rookie who started and won the fi­nal three games of an oth­er­wise wasted 7-11 cam­paign in 2016. While Adams showed prom­ise, ink­ing Du­rant could go a long way to mak­ing Mon­treal a con­tender in the CFL East­ern Con­fer­ence if he stays healthy.

“Pri­or­ity No. 1 was to ad­dress the quar­ter­back sit­u­a­tion and to give our­selves a bona fide starter,” said Reed. “Dar­ian is a proven leader and a win­ner.

“We are in a po­si­tion where we want to win right away and hav­ing some­one of his cal­i­bre gives us three things: a quar­ter­back that can help us win, a leader on the field and in the locker room, and an ex­am­ple for the next guy that we’re hop­ing to de­velop.”

It could also stop the re­volv­ing door that has seen 12 quar­ter­backs take snaps for Mon­treal since CFL all-time pass­ing leader An­thony Calvillo re­tired at the end of the 2013 cam­paign.

Now it is Saskatchewan that needs to find a starter. Gale Mitchell got into nine games this past sea­son, while for­mer Alou­ette Bran­don Bridge of Mis­sis­sauga, Jake Wa­ters and Bryan Ben­nett could also be in the mix. GM Chris Jones may also bring a new pivot.

“We’re go­ing to bring all of our quar­ter­backs to camp and let them com­pete,” said Jones. “We’re go­ing to chart ev­ery­thing that we know to chart and the best man wins.”

Jones said he tried to sign Du­rant, but was not go­ing to break the bank for an ag­ing quar­ter­back who has had in­jury trou­bles in re­cent sea­sons.

Jones be­gan to put his stamp on the Rid­ers when he ar­rived from the Grey Cup cham­pion Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos this past sea­son by mov­ing out stars such as Weston Dressler and John Chick. Now he’s traded per­haps the club’s most pop­u­lar player.

On his web­site, Du­rant thanked Rid­ers fans for their sup­port.

“Dear Rider­na­tion: This is a very emo­tional time for me right now and it’s hard to put my thoughts to­gether, but I wanted to send out a thank you from the bot­tom of my heart,” he said in a state­ment. “Eleven years ago when I came up to Saskatchewan, I never could have imag­ined the love and sup­port I’ve felt from the Rider fans across the world! “Al­though I wanted to stay, ev­ery- one’s time comes and this is mine. I have so many cher­ished mem­o­ries of my time in green. I’m ex­cited for a new op­por­tu­nity. I’ll say more later once this has sunken in.”

Du­rant has a 58-54-1 record in 113 ca­reer reg­u­lar-sea­son starts. He is se­cond all-time on the Rid­ers in at­tempts, com­ple­tions and pass­ing yards. But the Rid­ers fin­ished last at 5-13 and change was ex­pected.

Reed said he ex­changed text mes­sages with Du­rant and would speak to him later Fri­day.

The 5-foot-11 Du­rant led Saskatchewan to Grey Cup vic­to­ries in 2007 and 2013. In his ca­reer, the Florence, S.C., na­tive com­pleted 2,226 passes for 28,507 yards and 149 touch­downs, with 99 in­ter­cep­tions. He has also rushed 375 times for 2,922 yards and 22 touch­downs. This past sea­son, he played in 15 games, com­plet­ing 330 of 496 passes for 3,839 yards and rushed 57 times for 308 yards.

Reed said in­juries are part of the risk with any quar­ter­back. His pri­or­ity now is to “make sure we pro­tect Dar­ian and give him weapons.”

MARK TAY­LOR/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Saskatchewan has dealt quar­ter­back Dar­ian Du­rant, seen pass­ing against the B.C. Lions in Oc­to­ber, to the Alouettes.

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