FBO CFL Grey Cup 20151128

Hurricane Chris has continued blasting through the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ roster with the surprising, controversial release of two of the CFL team’s most popular players — receiver Weston Dressler and defensive end John Chick.

Where does the hurricane touch down next? Take cover, quarterback Darian Durant!

After being hired as the Roughriders’ general-in-charge-of-everything-but-souvenir-sales, Chris Jones immediately waived 19 players, including popular veterans Tyron Brackenridge and Terrell Maze. The blood-letting has continued as Jones works to rebuild a team that was 3-15 in 2015.

Dumping Dressler, 30, and Chick, 33, has upset thousands of the Roughriders’s staunchest fans. They were on the team that won its hometown 2013 Grey Cup — Chick also played on the 2007 championship squad — and have become fan favourites, partly because they’re hard-working and productive but also because they developed friendly, high profiles through hundreds of personal appearances throughout Saskatchewan.

The duo also has huge salaries and each was due roster bonuses within the next few days. Murray McCormick of the Regina Leader-Post reported their salaries would have totalled $500,000 in 2016, a huge chunk of next season’s $5.1-million salary cap.

Although Jones refused to tell a media conference call about his plans for Durant, who has missed most of the last two seasons with torn tendons, and reportedly makes $500,000 annually. Jones subsequently insisted he wasn’t trying to send a message to any of the remaining players, but it’s obvious the veteran quarterback will be next in line for a salary reduction.

No need for a threat. A point has been made. Among the league’s pending free agents are quarterbacks Trevor Harris and Travis Lulay, both of whom have experience as CFL starters.

Jones said the Roughriders attempted to trade Chick and Dressler. Of course nobody was interested in players they could sign shortly as free agents. Jones also said the Roughriders wanted to negotiate new, lower salaries with their agents, but that didn’t materialize.

Rival teams will likely grab Dressler and Chick; both have life left. Meanwhile, the Roughriders are re-stocking their cupboard with younger cheaper players such as receiver Maurice Price, a tall speedster from the Ottawa Redblacks, and defensive end Shawn Lemon, a dangerous pass rusher also from Ottawa. There will be numerous changes in the upcoming days but none will have the effect of waiving Chrick and Dressler. Jones even admitted such bold moves didn’t make him happy, but he was totally focussed on winning.

Jones has a pedigree that should make observers believe he can make the Roughriders into contenders. Jones has been with four CFL franchises since coming to Canada in 2002 and he’s won a Grey Cup with each team, including last season when he coached the Edmonton Eskimos to a championship and promptly accepted an offer to join the Roughriders.

Jones knows that loyalty doesn’t win Grey Cups.

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Darrell Davis
Darrell Davis has reported on the Riders for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2006.