Hopefully Maurice Price didn’t sign his new CFL contract in January, the day after being dealt to Saskatchewan from the Ottawa Redblacks, with the intention of not playing this season.
That would be dishonest.
The Roughriders dealt this year’s sixth- and seventh-round choices for Price, 30, and Ottawa’s sixth-round pick, then immediately signed him to a new deal. Believed to be earning $150,000, Price was over-priced for a 600-yard receiver and his salary was being dumped by Ottawa. Saskatchewan would have cut his salary and offered him a signing bonus.
Price signed the deal upon being told he would fit into the team’s plans. Saskatchewan reportedly paid his signing bonus.
Fourteen weeks later Price filed his retirement papers, which “surprised and disappointed” Chris Jones, the Roughriders’ head coach, general manager and vice-president of football operations.
Despite being a tall and fast receiver, Price was never going to fit into Saskatchewan.
He had been ridiculed by Riders fans since he was with the Calgary Stampeders and dropped a fumble in the 2013 West final that allowed Saskatchewan to march to its illustrious, home-field Grey Cup victory. Price had boasted about taking over the Roughriders’ locker room for that Grey Cup Week, but was non-repentant after losing “to them [his emphasis]” in the penultimate game.
Price also got in trouble with the CFL office for disparaging tweets about Michael Sam. He subsequently apologized.
Losing Price won’t hurt the Riders. Their offseason recruiting his snared potential starters John Chiles, formerly of the Toronto Argonauts, and NFL castoff Jeremy Kelley. Others always show up at training camp.
CFL teams dump players all the time, mercilessly, for business purposes. Those transactions usually occur just before a player is due to receive a bonus. The Roughriders apparently did that recently with two veterans, slotback Weston Dressler and defensive end John Chick. Hopefully those deals are signed with integrity.
Players have also retired after receiving signing bonuses. When the Roughriders changed management before the 2000 season, incoming general manager Roy Shivers was happy to have tailback Mike Saunders and receiver Curtis Mayfield under contract. After Shivers paid them hefty deadline bonuses, they each retired, leaving the Roughriders poorer in several ways.
Of course it’s a two-way street, this football business. Each side has to look out for its own best interests. But if a player or a team doesn’t intend to honour a contract, don’t sign it.