Willie Jefferson’s ideal season: win Grey Cup, land NFL job

Willie Jefferson chose to re-sign in Saskatchewan over chasing an NFL roster spot.

“I really wasn’t looking forward to going into the whole NFL tour trying to look for a team. I felt like the way the season ended last year I just wanted to come back and try to see if we can finish it off a little bit better,” Jefferson said.

The Riders lost a one-score game in the Eastern Final 25-21 as the green and white came up just short of a Grey Cup berth. Jefferson had an all-star season as a key factor on defence in a turnaround campaign for Saskatchewan as the Riders doubled their win total from 5 to 10 in 2017.

The 27-year-old recorded 45 tackles and a team-high eight sacks to go with one defensive touchdown while starting all 18 games. The six-foot-six, 245-pounder led the league in quarterback pressures with 34 – nine more than the next closest defender. He added three tackles, one sack and one interception in two playoff games.

“I didn’t want to go back to the NFL on a hope that I could make a team. I had a great season last year and I probably could have made an NFL team, but the next time I go to the NFL I want a team to want me. After they see my film and me workout, knowing what I can do and bring to the team sign me and tell me this is what I’m going to be doing and have the off-season to get ready with OTAs and stuff like that and be me,” Jefferson said.

“I don’t want to have to fight for a spot, even though I don’t mind fighting for a spot I already did that. I played a couple years, showed the team what I have to bring to the table. And if they don’t like it there are teams in the CFL that like it.”

Jefferson signed as an undrafted free agent in 2013 with the Houston Texans where he played in six games making two tackles. Buffalo had Jefferson in for a brief stint, but after the Bills released him, the Edmonton Eskimos brought the terrorizing defender north of the border. Chrs Jones was the head coach at the time. After winning a Grey Cup with the Eskimos and Jones in 2015, Jefferson earned another NFL chance with Washington but he was among Redskins’ final cuts and he rejoined Jones in Saskatchewan.

“Coach Jones told me if I wanted to get an NFL shot he would let me, but I told him that I like the way that I felt playing for the whole season last year and the way that I led the team. And with the way we ended the season with a loss, I wanted to come back and get another shot at the Grey Cup and this off-season the moves that Coach Jones made it all came full circle for me,” Jefferson said.

Fellow 2017 CFL all-star Charleston Hughes was acquired by the Riders via trade to form a dynamic tandem with Jefferson. Hughes has notched double-digit sacks in five out of the last six seasons, including 11 last year, and has been a league all-star four times.

“Playing next to Willie, he’s just as excited as I am. I’ve never played with another defensive end as talented as he is. It’s going to be fun to really get into game time play and actually see what he can do,” Hughes said.

“I can’t wait for us to line up on opposite sides and see how things go. I know he can get off the ball, I know I can get off the ball. I know he can make plays, I know I can make plays. At this point, it’s about who is going to make the most plays on the team,” Jefferson said.

Hughes was emphatic about being the best thing that happened on defence in Calgary since 2008. Jefferson believes the Riders have the best pair of defensive ends in the league.

“Nobody else has put up the numbers we have together,” Jefferson said. “I’m sure the league can’t wait to see what we do together on the same team.”

That combo could make Jefferson’s blueprint for 2018 a reality.

“That’s the plan for this year: have a great season with Saskatchewan, win the Grey Cup,” Jefferson said, “and after that, I can get me an NFL shot.”

Justin Dunk

Justin Dunk

Justin Dunk was a five-year starter at quarterback for the University of Guelph. He covers the league for Sportsnet and 3DownNation.
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Justin Dunk
About Justin Dunk (945 Articles)
Justin Dunk was a five-year starter at quarterback for the University of Guelph. He covers the league for Sportsnet and 3DownNation.

37 Comments on Willie Jefferson’s ideal season: win Grey Cup, land NFL job

  1. Big Willie!!! One of the best in the league. Love this guy! Hope he has a great season and if he gets another crack at the big show then all the best to him and his family. Big Willie did a lot for the Texas floods. Great dude

  2. Football beats the sh*t out of your body, can’t blame these guys for going where the money is so they are set for their future.

    • Sorry Willie if you plan on winning the Grey Cup with the riders you better give up that dream because that isn’t happening anytime soon with the riders so it is best that you go chase your NFL dream again

  3. Jefferson is a great player but he got cut from the Texans because he was smoking pot…will a nfl team look at him with a checked past and never drafted? will he want to walk away from $200,000 (estimate)its in loonies but if he exchages it still $130,000 American ..if I was his agent I tell him to stay in Canada for the season and the off season he could set himself for the rest of his life but he would have to let go of the nfl dream which from reading this story he not ready to give up but after 3 nfl teams someone should tell him Mr Jefferson stay in the cfl and have a great career here! forget the nfl

    • Let him try the NFL again – a Canadian O-lineman, Duvernay-Tardif, just signed a five-year, $41.25 US million contract extension with the Chiefs.
      A D-lineman could easily earn the same.
      If he is earning $130k US in the CFL it would take him over 200 seasons to earn that much !!

      The NFL is worth the try, if he doesn’t make it he comes back to the CFL. An NFL spot is like winning the Lottery –

      • Average NFL salary is 1.9 million, not the huge millions you see with select players.

  4. grumblingaboutgreen // June 13, 2018 at 10:07 pm //

    NOT a wise DECISION! i dont SUPPOSE mr jefferson has ever heard of REGRESSION to the mean. its no SECRET that chris joness TENURE has not exactly been a BEACON of excellence in the WIN column. of COURSE this is the cfl and fortunes are known to CHANGE but a man committing another YEAR of his life should CONSIDER the possibility that the HOT STREAK that the riders hit LATE in the season is over and DONE. the team didnt have a winning RECORD until labour day which SHOULD set off all kinds of WARNING bells! check out the websites of the BOOKIES whose profit DEPENDS on correctly predicting the ODDS and you will see that seeing earl greys CUP in riderhole is definitely a LONG shot!

  5. Pennyrocker // June 13, 2018 at 10:13 pm //

    What I see happening is double teaming will leave a man open on the line. After all you double team Jefferson and Hughes.
    Evans is in the middle and needs to be double teamed only problem you don’t have enough men on the line.

    Let’s see how this line plays out.

  6. Jefferson must have been smoking pot again to think he’s got a chance at playing in the NFL next year.

    The guy’s never managed to put up more than EIGHT (8) sacks in a season and he’ll be 28 years old trying to get an NFL deal.

    Not happening, my friend.

    Jefferson blew his shot at the NFL because he couldn’t put the pipe down. Smoked his way off Baylor. Smoked his way off the Titans.

    Redskins gave him a sniff in 2016 – – when he was 25 years old – – but that’s not happening in 2019.

    • Ahhh….like if fresh breath of methane Areola

    • I agree that Willie likely isn’t getting another NFL spot, but not for lack of production. Being 28 would be the biggest number. Ahh perceived lack of sacks is due to opposing coordinators doubling up on him.

      Also the team has gotten much better under Jones. Expect big things this year!

      • I concur with your comments, Keith. It’s hard for an NFL team to jump at a 28-year-old athlete next year like Jefferson when several free agents and draft choices are barely over 20 years old.

    • Confused // June 13, 2018 at 11:08 pm //

      You again. You must have the shittiest life to come on here talking smack about every CFL player. You must have small man syndrome. Smoking pot? WOW. What a criminal deviant. Since you brag about your “brother” who no longer is good enough to play in the CFL, you must have a lot of inside knowledge. So you must know how many players smoke pot. I bet more than half of every team smokes….and some do from the time they wake up until the time they go to bed. Seriously, dude, go to take your fake pompous small man syndrome comments and shove them.

      • Stand by for the “I call it as I see it my friend” or “I’m here to educate” BS narrative.

      • Didn’t realize 50% of football players are dope smokers.

        Evidently only the dumb ones get caught.

        • Huff's Neighbor // June 14, 2018 at 11:14 am //

          You would know dumb. You are the dumbest dumbass on this site. Hater too. You’re not the loser Argo fan with the horn who attend the loss in Regina last year? I sat beside this clown and he sure went quiet after the Riders took the lead and never looked back. Are you that clown?

      • White Horse // June 14, 2018 at 1:24 pm //

        Confused…everyone is entitled to their opinion, just like you!!

        • Huff's Neighbor // June 14, 2018 at 4:47 pm //

          Cop out answer used by the haters. Nothing new, just different flavors.

  7. GOOD! The troll has been deleted so we can have a real discussion.

    Not a great time for this kind of article Dunk, not the NFL part anyway. Yes, I know that the NFL offers these guys big money and I don’t have a problem with them giving the NFL a shot, but this is the beginning of the CFL season. It’s time to talk about the CFL, not the NFL. There will be plenty of time in the off season to talk about the NFL. Now the focus should be on the CFL.

    • I like how Dunk has deleted comments and actually moderating this thread. Dare I say “slam dunk” Justin?! Anyhoo! It is a cfl article RFD and there’s just a quote about the NFL – no harm and no foul I say. That said, I also can’t wait for the season to kick off tomm!

      Area51: you realize anyone can just go to google right? Aren’t you Ricky Foley’s brother? You seem as smart as him too – no wonder he isn’t in the league anymore – he’s a scrub! But thanks for saving us all the “insider” information. Haha. Get a life man.

    • dangnabbit // June 13, 2018 at 11:58 pm //

      I’ve noticed this happen on a couple articles – the giveaway is that the comment count on the byline (17 at time of writing) is a bit greater than at the intro to the comment section (15). My hypothesis is that the suppressed comments account for the difference.

  8. Although you always hope for the best in a player career as they move up, my preference on a player is a franchise player that stays with the team , in the league and is very consistent and productive. Someone who sees the league for what it is, and is grateful for it. Although it is more ideal making more money in a bigger league, if I money is a big thing, for some of the player with a successful post-secondary education, football may not be the best, or honestly I would rather be playing than a bench warmer, because the reason you are in football is the play it and do well in it
    You never know, Jefferson can make it big with enough persistence and effort. He just has the stay consistent, make pressure, and create big numbers and stats for himself. Not all players who make it south do bad, or don’t end of being starters. I’d like to see him prove people wrong, and as a little funny remark, for the people cheering for other teams, you want him to make it to the south :).

    • A quick addition to my comment, is CFl is a second chance for any player, and should be grateful and stick with that, but it’s their choice and their loss if they don’t make it, so good luck I guess.

  9. Jack in Hamilton // June 14, 2018 at 12:18 am //

    This is news? It’s basically the template for every American player that comes up here.

    • 4thand26 // June 14, 2018 at 12:34 am //

      My sentiments exactly. Even Canadian players are headed to the NFL before the CFL now. Shepley, Korte come to mind. The NFL has the money now. Guys want to be paid. This article is simply here to drive traffic and hits to the site because it has Riders in the title. If this was about Winnipeg’s quarterback or Markem Michel we don’t have this posted.

  10. MR. Green // June 14, 2018 at 1:02 am //

    You don’t wanna not try and regret it later in life. Either way he will be on a team somewhere. Bighill was 28, got a year out of it, made more money and is now back at only 29, with likely a decent contract.

    • NathanM // June 14, 2018 at 1:21 pm //

      Good call MR Green.

      Easy to throw things out there when it is not effecting your family and dreams.

  11. True Green // June 14, 2018 at 1:05 am //

    Good article. I like that Willie didn’t try for another a shot with the nfl because he wants to come back to play for the Riders under Jones. We hear a lot of negatives about Jone and how flippant he is with players but many are very loyal to him.

    If Willie gets a chance next year and he doesn’t thave to go through the tryouts like he mentioned then good on him. These guys deserve more than say $100,000 or $150,000 a year for what, 5 years tops at that price?

    There would be more loyalty and willingness to play in cfl if the teams could pay what these athletes deserve. I’m glad to have him for the year and maybe more to come!

  12. Jim Bob // June 14, 2018 at 1:19 am //

    ED Hervey said when Jefferson signed with the Eskimos that he was TOO GOOD for the CFL and he did not expect him to be in the CFL for long. Up to this point he was WRONG. Definitely more CFL time vs NFL time. If Willie stays CLEAN and plays LIGHTS OUT the NFL will come to him vs he having his agent chase them down. Hope he stays in the CFL though. A colorful fun guy the league needs.

    • CFL coaches and GMs often make laughable proclamations like that. Reference June Jones promising that John Manziel will be the greatest player in CFL history.

      Jefferson is a poor man’s Stevie Baggs. Chasing the NFL paycheque and bouncing from one team to another, gets an All Star selection in the CFL but never close to being good enough to be DPOY in the CFL.

  13. Expanding the NFL off season rosters to 90 was a major disservice to the CFL.

    It suddenly created 320 additional “roster spots” and now everyone thinks they’ve got a chance at making the NFL, when in reality it’s a complete waste of time.

    Look at how many UDFAs are going to “rookie mini camp tryouts” hoping to get a training camp invite.

    I can understand Americans attending them because they’ve got no other shot at a pro football career, but for Canadians it’s absolutely nonsensical when they’re going to be a high pick in the CFL draft.

    Brett Jones is the perfect example of how a CIS grad should approach things.

    Didn’t waste his time screwing around as a tackling dummy in NFL “mini rookie camps”. He came straight to the CFL and dominated for two years. Then, when he was ready, he was able to make an actual NFL 46 man roster.

    • Well – I agree with you on this 51. Every year it seems like the Giants send invites out to everybody and their dog. Keep the odd one here or there.

      • They’re nothing more than tackling dummies at the “mini rookie camps”.

        Before the NFL expanded off season rosters, those 320 extra players would be the ones battling in mini camps desperately hoping for a training camp invite.

        Now that there’s 320 fewer players to draw from, teams have to lower their standards to fill up their mini camps.

        Which is why you’re seeing so many more CIS players attending NFL “mini rookie camps”.

        It’s not because the calibre of play in the CIS has suddenly increased, and it’s definitely not because these guys actually have NFL caliber game – – it’s because they need bodies for their cattle call mini camps.

  14. Phil Miller // June 14, 2018 at 3:34 am //

    I be like Coach Jones. Love me some Willy.

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