Fo­cus on free agents as team searches for QB

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MUR­RAY MCCORMICK

MONT-TREM­BLANT, QUE. The Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers are ex­pected to dive into the CFL’S free agent pool to find a start­ing quar­ter­back for the 2019 sea­son.Chris Jones, the Rid­ers’ head coach and gen­eral man­ager, wouldn’t dis­close which quar­ter­back he would like to sign when the free agent pe­riod kicks off Feb. 12.“There are a whole bunch of them that are free agents this year so we’re not rul­ing any­one out,” Jones said dur­ing Tues­day’s me­dia day at the CFL’S an­nual off-sea­son meet­ings.“We’re go­ing to take a real hard look at a lot of the dif­fer­ent guys who are in our league.”Ap­par­ently that in­cludes Zach Col­laros and Bran­don Bridge, who shared the Rid­ers’ quar­ter­back du­ties in 2018.Col­laros and Bridge are both pend­ing free agents.“We’re go­ing to make the eval­u­a­tions as we go and then free agency starts in a month,” Jones said.The list of pend­ing free agent quar­ter­backs in­cludes Mike Reilly (Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos), Bo Levi Mitchell (Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers), Trevor Har­ris (Ot­tawa Redblacks) and Jonathon Jennings (B.C. Lions).Reilly and Mitchell are the big­gest fish in the free agent pond.Mitchell is ex­pected to sign with an NFL team af­ter nu­mer­ous work­outs in De­cem­ber.Reilly is ex­pected to draw in­ter­est from most CFL teams, but the pos­si­bil­ity he could be look­ing for a con­tract in the $600,000 range may be too rich for Saskatchewan.The Rid­ers could also turn to their ne­go­ti­a­tion list. Jones said there are ap­prox­i­mately 20 quar­ter­backs there, in­clud­ing Trace Mcsor­ley (Penn State), Ian Book (Notre Dame), Joe Bur­row (Louisiana State) and Ma­son Fine (North Texas).Jones added that the num­ber of quar­ter­backs on the ne­go­ti­a­tion list has al­ready been dis­cussed with Paul Jones, who was for­mally an­nounced as the as­sis­tant gen­eral man­ager on Tues­day.Paul Jones, who spent 21 sea­sons with Ed­mon­ton, signed a two-year deal with the Rid­ers.“Ev­ery­body in the league is try­ing to find that guy who can be their quar­ter­back for the fu­ture,” said Chris Jones, who will be part of the Green and White for the fore­see­able fu­ture af­ter it was an­nounced on Tues­day that he had agreed to a con­tract ex­ten­sion through the 2020 sea­son.Jones said the lat­est deal in­cludes clauses that would al­low him to leave the Rid­ers if the op­por­tu­nity to move to the NCAA or the NFL comes about.There were re­ports that Jones had drawn some in­ter­est from NFL teams prior to the con­tract ex­ten­sion be­ing an­nounced.“I don’t think right now is the time to talk about that,” Jones said. “It’s the time to talk about ex­tend­ing and how we are mov­ing for­ward. We have our staff back and we have a great group of young play­ers.“We’re the youngest team in the league and we’re very ath­letic. A big group of our vet­er­ans who are free agents have ex­pressed an in­ter­est in want­ing to be back.”Fi­nan­cial de­tails of Jones’ new con­tract weren’t re­leased, but the new salary cap on foot­ball op­er­a­tions of $2.59 mil­lion played a role in Jones’ ex­ten­sion.Jones was be­lieved to be earn­ing $500,000 a sea­son un­der the pre­vi­ous con­tract.Jones said that he took a 10 per cent pay cut to help the Rid­ers meet the salary cap lim­i­ta­tions.“It’s a big cut and there’s no doubt about it and it’s part of it,” Jones said.“There have been other things that we don’t nec­es­sar­ily agree with, and some­times they work and some­times they don’t.“When our com­mis­sioner said this is what we’re go­ing to do, then we’re go­ing to sup­port it and see if it works.”

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