When Shawn Lemon signed with the Ottawa Redblacks in early September, GM Marcel Desjardins made a point of noting at his introductory press conference that Lemon was signed not only for the remainder of 2015, but also the 2016 season as well.
In the 9 games Lemon played for the Redblacks, he managed to compile 15 tackles, 5 sacks and forced 3 fumbles. While they might not be the eye popping numbers you’d expect from a defensive lineman who was being paid $180,000 per season, after shaking the NFL rust off, Lemon’s ability to collapse the pocket and force quick throws was an important part of the Redblacks’ defence on their run to the Grey Cup.
Following said Grey Cup loss, many in R-Nation were caught off guard when Lemon asked to be released to once again pursue NFL opportunities. On one hand, given how injuries consistently cut careers short, no one can fault a player for wanting to maximize his earnings. On the other, Lemon just failed to stick in the NFL and was under contract for 2016. North and Southsiders alike drooled at the thought of Lemon and Aston Whiteside meeting at the QB all season long.
As CFL GMs normally do when faced with such a request, Desjardins complied and allowed Lemon out of his contract to seek work down South. But after only 37 days of looking for work at a time when many NFL teams are either in the playoffs or searching for a new head coach, news broke today that Shawn Lemon will sign with the Saskatchewan GREENWHITES, you know, that CFL team based over in the prairies.
Safe to say, R-Nation’s opinion of Lemon dropped:
Congratulations to Regina for their newly acquired NFL franchise #RNation
— Alain Boucher (@33aboucher) January 14, 2016
That's…pretty disappointing about Shawn Lemon. Wanted out to go to NFL, then all of a sudden heads to Saskatchewan. #CFL
— #RNation (@RNationOttawa) January 14, 2016
@FarhanLaljiTSN Good luck to the next player asking his CFL team for a release to "pursue NFL opportunities".
— Dennis Prouse (@Dennis_Prouse) January 14, 2016
The last tweet brings up an extremely valid point. Given that Lemon asked to be released for NFL opportunities but shortly after gaining his release signed with another CFL team, will GMs in the future be less likely to grant these kind of requests? Typically, no CFL GM wants to be seen as holding a player back but the thought of losing an impact player to a rival might be enough to make teams reconsider who they let go early.
As per TSN’s Gary Lawless, Lemon’s deal with the GREENWHITES will be worth $175,000 but can reach $190,000 if certain incentives are made.
— Vince (@VincentRule) January 14, 2016
That’s potentially a little more than he would’ve made had he stayed in Ottawa, but really not a significant enough raise to warrant jumping ship.
Another way to look at this is that perhaps Desjardins had no issue letting Lemon out of his contract as he didn’t feel he was getting enough value for the money he was being paid. Perhaps the Redblacks feel that LBL (Life Before Lemon) wasn’t bad, with the team still leading the CFL in sacks before his signing, and that with a healthy Whiteside and a returning Justin Capicciotti (if they can re-sign him), means the 2016 Redblacks won’t have trouble pressuring QBs without Lemon.
***UPDATE** A Desjardins tweet seems to confirm the speculation in the preceding paragraph…
— Marcel Desjardins (@REDBLACKSGM) January 15, 2016
Anyways, I put it to you guys, how do you peel, oops, I mean feel about Shawn Lemon signing with Saskatchewan?