Focus on free agents as team searches for QB
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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