Priority No. 1 for Riders’ GM Jeremy O’Day is extending franchise QB Cody Fajardo

Photo courtesy: Matt Smith

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ general manager Jeremy O’Day has one task above all others on his priority list: extending the contract of quarterback Cody Fajardo.

Fajardo signed a two-year pact last October that runs through the 2021 season. During those negotiations, O’Day originally offered Fajardo a four-year term but the two sides ended up splitting the difference at two years.

“We’re in a different environment now than what we were at that point. Not having last year to play and to evaluate, I think maybe a little bit more open to extending longer than he currently is,” O’Day said in a videoconference.

“I don’t want to speak for Cody or put words in his mouth, but we’ve certainly exchanged messages that we would like to have him here longer term and he has reciprocated that. Now the question is whether we can come to a common ground.”

For 2020, Fajardo’s hard money total was $412,000, though he received less than half his salary — $175,000 to be exact — due to the cancellation of the season. His salary is scheduled to be $444,000 in 2021 but a pay reduction could be possible with the Riders planning to spend closer to the salary cap floor ($4.75 million) than the ceiling ($5.35 million).

“We’re just getting into those discussions now with him and the nice part is we have a good starting point of we’d like him to be here, and he would like to be here. That’s always a good thing,” O’Day said.

“The tougher part is seeing where that contract should be and where you can go with it with the unknowns. There’s a lot of challenges that we’re facing this off-season and a lot of those unknowns that we’ll have to work through and hopefully come to a common ground.”

Fajardo led the Riders to a 12-4 record in 2019, throwing for a CFL-leading 4,302 yards. He completed over 71 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns against eight interceptions in his first season as a No. 1 QB. The dual-threat pivot used his legs for 611 yards and 10 touchdowns on 107 rushing attempts, averaging 5.7 yards per carry.

“You always want to try to retain your starting quarterback. It is a priority for us to try to extend Cody. This off-season is like no other year where we didn’t have a season to evaluate players on, and let’s face it — there’s some unknowns that we don’t know moving forward,” O’Day said.

“We’ve had discussions, we’ll continue to have discussions with Cody moving forward, and hopefully we can continue to have good conversations moving forward, and we’d like to work on an extension with him that we’ve been discussing.”

Fajardo was named the West Division’s Most Outstanding Player and earned CFL all-star status. Staying in Saskatchewan provides superstar potential for Fajardo and makes the Riders a Grey Cup contender.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.