There’s one thing you can never accuse the Roughriders’ Chris Jones of being and that’s boring.
Since becoming the man in charge of football for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Jones has rarely sat on his hands and built his roster in a quiet manner. Jones hasn’t been afraid to make a splash and he was at it again when the Riders picked up quarterback Zach Collaros from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for a second-round draft choice (a pick the team got from Montreal 13 months ago for Darian Durant).
Generally speaking, trading a Canadian (or in this case, a potential Canadian) for an American is usually frowned upon in the CFL. There is one major exception and that’s when you can pick up a guy who could be your starting quarterback for a number of years to come. Jones did that.
There’s no question that Collaros comes with some pretty big question marks. Since suffering some major injuries, Collaros hasn’t looked like he did leading Hamilton to a Grey Cup appearance in 2014. Collaros followed that up with a torrid start to 2015 that likely would have netted him an MOP award if not for an injury. Why hasn’t Collaros been the same? There’s probably not one specific reason as to why but rather a mixture of team and player.
Collaros’ reported $500,000-plus salary is certainly a concern as well, but assistant vice-president of football operations Jeremy O’Day told reporters that re-negotiations are already underway. There’s probably no reason to believe that some kind of agreement won’t be reached. Collaros doesn’t have a whole lot of leverage right now.
The absolute best case scenario for the green and white is after sitting most of last season and a fresh start, Collaros re-finds his best self and the Riders instantly become contenders in what’s expected to be a very competitive West Division once again.
Even if that’s not the case, Collaros can be a serviceable pivot for the team. If the Riders defence and special teams are as good, if not better, this coming season than they were in 2017, then Collaros won’t have to be Superman for the Riders to have success. Kevin Glenn’s best football came when the Riders were at their worst last season. When the team found its groove, Glenn and Brandon Bridge had their moments but were hardly elite. If anything, offensive coordinator Stephen McAdoo’s offence won’t ask Collaros to be “Mr. Everything” but rather just a piece of the puzzle. Make smart reads and let your offensive playmakers make plays. As long as he gets time, Collaros should be able to handle that and likely do it better than any other quarterback currently on the roster.
If all else fails, Collaros will push Bridge to be better in training camp and provide depth behind the Canadian if he takes his game to the next level, which is never a bad thing.
The Riders did give up a decently high draft pick and they do need Canadians, but quarterback is an even greater need. One way or another, they should have one now.