Why Cody Fajardo’s extension with the Riders strikes the right balance

Photo courtesy: Matt Smith CFL.ca

2021 is starting off on the right foot for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and quarterback Cody Fajardo.

General manager Jeremy O’Day agreed to a new contract extension with their franchise pivot. The deal will see Fajardo remain in Green and White through the 2022 season, essentially adding another year to an existing deal that had been restructured a few weeks ago.

The one-year extension is a move that makes a lot of sense for both the team and Fajardo.

Even though we’ve seen some elite quarterbacks sign longer-term deals of late, now wasn’t the time for either side to commit to each other for, say, four more years.

From the Riders’ perspective, even though they believe in Fajardo — and they should — there’s still a little proof of concept that needs to play out before going all-in on the former Nevada quarterback. As good as Fajardo was in 2019, he’s still only had one good year as a starting pivot in the CFL. While there’s little reason to believe that Fajardo can’t do it again, he still needs to prove it on the field.

A shorter-term deal also gives O’Day flexibility to work with the cap going forward. The CFL season is slated to begin in early June, but it still remains up in the air. We’re hopeful that everything will kick-off on time, but it’s entirely possible the season could be delayed depending on where COVID-19 case levels and vaccinations are at.

There’s also no telling how the league is going to produce financially after missing an entire season. Could further reductions in spending be on the horizon? Maybe, maybe not. We won’t know until we see how this season looks. Keeping a minimal number of contracts on the books for a number of years will make adapting to the financial health of the league easier.

For Fajardo, there’s no doubt that he will remain well compensated as the team’s starting quarterback in 2022. Like the team, he’s also keeping his options open by signing on the line for an additional year.

If he has another great season in 2021, Fajardo will be in a strong position to re-negotiate again heading into 2022. Those negotiations should at the very least end with him receiving a bump in pay but also, in all likelihood, add more years to his deal.

Fajardo will also have a better idea of what the financial landscape of the CFL will look like after the 2021 season. It’s a low-risk gamble on the league’s finances improving as the pandemic slowly starts to end, which seems likely.

Keeping his extensions short also gives Fajardo the chance to explore other opportunities in the CFL or the NFL should he wish.

Fajardo also doesn’t need to look far for examples of long-term extensions not working out. Just in the recent history of Saskatchewan, Weston Dressler and Zack Evans signed four-year contracts and both were released before those deals ended.

Realistically this game of one-year extensions could go on for years if both sides play their cards right and both would be better off for it.

Joel Gasson is a Regina-based sports writer, broadcaster and football fanatic. He is also a beer aficionado.