Riders have botched St. John negotiations

Blame Josiah St. John.

Blame his agent, Jonathan Hardaway, who is notoriously difficult for CFL teams to deal with.

And don’t forget to blame the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who have magnificently botched the acquisition of St. John as the first overall choice in this year’s CFL college draft.

Because the Roughriders missed an exclusive opportunity to sign St. John before drafting him, the gigantic offensive lineman from the University of Oklahoma has been a training-camp holdout. Now he has demanded a trade amid reports claiming Hardaway and the Roughriders aren’t even close in salary numbers.

Of course the player and his agent are going to grind everything they can from the team. Greed is a traditional part of negotiating.

But on the other side, how can a team be so negligent? Were they so arrogant to believe that everybody would happily play for the Green and White?

The Riders had St. John in Regina recently, among a handful of top prospects, to assess who they were going to draft first. The Riders apparently spoke to the prospects in general terms about the contract offers they were prepared to make.

The Riders were talking to other teams about trading away their first choice, which they earned with a 3-15 regular-season record in 2015, but they didn’t make any deals. Because they owned that pick there was nothing preventing the Riders from getting St. John’s signature on a contract. That would have been the prudent thing to do:

When you have the first overall draft choice, sign him before you draft him.

Now everyone looks bad. The Roughriders don’t have their first draft choice, St. John is risking his future and Hardaway, well, he already behaves like an agent.

The options are limited. The parties can make nice and compromise on terms of a contract, which seems highly unlikely. The Riders won’t let Hardaway seek potential trades, but they may acquiesce on that and ultimately make a deal. Because St. John hasn’t played in the CFL — plus he’s apparently a malcontent — it’s unlikely the Riders will get much value in exchange.

Or St. John can continue to sit out, making him more irrelevant, while the Riders are short of a prospect who may have, at best, become a backup offensive lineman this season. That’s probably the best solution. Nobody gets paid and nobody plays. It punishes everyone involved, which is fair, because they’re all to blame.

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