Not too soon: Riders extension for Chris Jones strikes the right balance

It’s been about a week since the Saskatchewan Roughriders added another year to Chris Jones’ contract as the head of all things football.

I wasn’t really planning on chiming in on this since 3DownNation’s Darrell Davis has already suggested that it was a good move and I agreed with him, so there wasn’t really much point in doubling up. However, our Ryan Ballantine got me thinking about the deal and I’m going to have to go ahead and disagree with him (something that’s allowed around here). This deal isn’t too soon, the timing is right. The length is right and it shows that president and CEO Craig Reynolds may have learned something from his former boss Jim Hopson.

We’ll start with the timing. While I have no doubt that Jones and company would do the best job they can on the final year of their deals, it’s still more advantageous to have a general manager and head coach (in this case the same person) locked up for more than one season ahead of free agency and the draft. It not only means a little more security (relatively speaking) for the recruiters, but it also tells the potential players that there will be a program in place here for more than one season (in theory, anyway). What Jim Popp and Marc Trestman were able to do this season on short notice is the exception, not the rule.

There’s also an advantage for Reynolds here. If you leave Jones unsigned next season and say things go really well, then it’s either going to cost more to re-sign him or worse, they could suddenly be scrambling to fill four positions should someone else pony up to get Jones. They’re probably also looking for a whole new staff as Jones’ guys seem to follow him around. That’s less than ideal from the team’s perspective. Getting Jones signed gives them the upper hand.

As for the deal itself, extending this relationship by just one year shows the team has some belief in what Jones is doing but also leaves flexibility should things go sideways. It more or less boils down to this: the Riders have to improve again this season or there could be people looking for jobs next season. It’s certainly not a formality that the team will be better in 2018 and Reynolds has left the door open a crack, just in case.

The one-year pact also shows that Reynolds has perhaps learned something from the man who held the job before him. Just before the 2014 season both general manager Brendan Taman and head coach Corey Chamblin were handed two and three-year extensions after winning the Grey Cup in 2013. They had also worked together for just two seasons before that. Those deals would have just expired, and we all know what happened. Instead of going all-in on Jones, Reynolds decided to give him more time but didn’t guarantee him a paycheque for the next four years. He’s going to have to earn that.

If things go wrong and the Riders have to eat one year of an expensive deal, so be it. In a salary cap world, rich teams will find other ways to take advantage of the money at their disposal. If things go well, then Jones will be set to get another extension in 12 months. There’s nothing to lose at this point.

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