NFL teams have been keeping tabs on defensive lineman Willie Jefferson.
After Jefferson put together an all-star season in 2017, NFL clubs came calling, but the ultra-athletic defender decided to extend his contract with Saskatchewan for the 2018 season.
Jefferson’s plan was to win a Grey Cup with the Riders in 2018 while also earning an NFL shot. The first part of the goal fell short, though the team was able to host the first home playoff game at new Mosaic Stadium. However, the second element is attainable, especially with what Jefferson put on film throughout the last year.
The Riders – and anyone with eyes – saw Jefferson take his game to another level, posting a career-best sack season with 10 while recording his first two career interceptions taking them both back for touchdowns. The 27-year-old is an elite defender in the CFL which could translate into the NFL, though he has had two tours down south.
Jefferson signed as an undrafted free agent in 2013 with the Houston Texans where he played in six games making two tackles. Buffalo had Jefferson in for a brief stint, but after the Bills released him, the Edmonton Eskimos brought the terrorizing defender north of the border. Chris Jones was the head coach at the time. After winning a Grey Cup with the Eskimos and Jones in 2015, Jefferson earned another NFL chance with Washington but he was among Redskins’ final cuts and he rejoined Jones in Saskatchewan.
“Coming into the CFL and having Coach Jones for those two years consecutively and then leaving to go to the NFL and coming back and having Coach Jones again, me and Coach Jones click together and it’s been a real good bond. The defence has been catered to me,” Jefferson said.
“My style of ball is what he’s looking for on the end.”
Through the last three years that Jefferson has been with Jones, the six-foot-six, 245-pound has become a refined defender. Jefferson only converted to defensive end during his college career meaning he’s had fewer reps at the position compared to other players who have spent their entire football playing days lining up there.
Jefferson is a pending free agent in February, however, Jones has a history of allowing players out of their contracts early to seek out NFL opportunities.
Due to the strong relationship Jefferson and Jones have – trust being a critical element – Saskatchewan’s head man won’t worry about other CFL suitors entering the picture while the Stephen F. Austin product sees what the NFL might offer. Assuming Jones allows it, Jefferson can begin NFL work outs, visits and meeting sat any time and expect there to be multiple teams interested. Jefferson is at a prime age to take one last try at the NFL and if that doesn’t play out the way he wants – read: guaranteed money – playing in the green and white province for over two years has brought about sentimental feelings.
“I’ve become comfortable here,” Jefferson said about Regina.
“This organization is worldwide. Saskatchewan has become home for me.”