The deal is done and Darian Durant is no longer the Riders starting quarterback after leading the franchise for nearly a decade.
From the start, there was always the feeling that Durant and Chris Jones just weren’t a match made in heaven. It was this time last year when Durant re-worked his deal with the Riders, but in doing so, he only signed for one season. That signalled to me that not only did Jones want to test drive Durant but Durant also wanted to get a feel for Jones before deciding if he wanted to remain in Saskatchewan long term. Even though both sides talked a big game about wanting the other, it never really felt like Jones or Durant made a big push or made a necessary compromise to make it work. The end was inevitable, and here we are.
The question now is where do the Riders go from here?
During his news conference on Friday morning, Jones suggested that the team’s next quarterback could already be on the roster. Does Jones actually think that one of Brandon Bridge, Mitchell Gale, G.J. Kinne or the recently signed Bryan Bennett could actually do the job? Who knows, he’s certainly not going to throw his guys under the bus by suggesting he absolutely needs to go out and get a proven quarterback. It’s something he should do, and hopefully Jones knows it, but it’s important that it looks like he has confidence in the other quarterbacks.
Not bringing in someone else certainly wouldn’t give the fans a whole of confidence heading in to the 2017 season, but Jones does know these guys better than we do at this point.
Make a trade
Right now, this feels like the most obvious answer to the Riders questions at quarterback. Even if one of the young pivots on the roster can step up and be the guy Jones is looking for, having a veteran option to help bring that quarterback along or to jump in when the times get rough is important. We saw that in B.C. this year when Travis Lulay came off the bench a few times for Jonathon Jennings.
Most seem to think that Jones is targeting James Franklin in Edmonton. He’s not exactly a veteran QB but he’s not a rookie either. I’m not so sure Franklin will be made available this year and if he is, it won’t come cheap. I have absolutely no basis for this other than my gut, but my “Joel, you’re insane” theory is that Mike Reilly might be easier to acquire given his age compared to Franklin and Hervey’s love for Franklin. Crazier things have happened in the CFL. Either way, one of them probably isn’t in green and gold in 2018.
Other options for a trade could be the likes of Henry Burris (wouldn’t that be something?) or Ricky Ray. In Toronto, something has to give with the money they just gave Drew Willy and Ottawa’s plan was to have Trevor Harris be their starter in 2017. Both players would offer a strong veteran for the young pivots to lean and would be a short term expense for a rebuilding team. Both guys could also retire in the coming weeks.
Our Justin Dunk has also reported at the Stampeders have Drew Tate on the block. I’m not so sure he’s the answer considering his price and his body of work. Though, he does have experience working behind a younger, better, quarterback.
There’s also quarterbacks on negotiation lists across the CFL that could be of interest to Jones. Johnny Manziel anyone? Kidding, I hope.
There could be some options on the free market for Jones, but they don’t really excite me.
Jones could sign Kevin Glenn right now if he wanted to, but we’ve been there and done that. I’m not sure if Glenn is the kind of guy that Jones will want. The other option could be Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols, if he doesn’t re-sign in Winnipeg. Nichols probably isn’t a fit financially for Jones considering he’s believe to be looking for more money than Durant was looking for out of the Riders. I’m also still not really sold on him being a legitimate starting quarterback, though Nichols could work out in McAdoo’s offence which relies more on screens and short passes than explosive plays. (UPDATE: 3DownNation’s Justin Dunk is reporting that Matt Nichols has re-signed in Winnipeg, so you can strike him off the list)
If none of these work out, then Jones will have to hope to catch lightning in a bottle with a free agent out of college or the NFL.
No matter which road Jones takes, we’ll be talking about the fall out from January 13th, 2017 for a long time in Riderville.