CFL players across the league are being asked to take pay cuts this season due to the financial ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Saskatchewan Roughriders’ quarterback Cody Fajardo counts himself among the few who don’t mind sacrificing a few dollars.
The dual-threat pivot inked a contract extension to keep him in Regina through 2022, drawing inspiration from one of pro football’s greatest players when asked to shave some money off his deal for 2021.
“You never want to be the highest-paid quarterback with nobody around you. You want to have a team around you that can win and ultimately winning is what gets you to your next contract. I learned a lot from Tom Brady and how he restructured his deals,” Fajardo told CKRM 620 SportsCage host Derek Taylor.
“That guy won a second Super Bowl when he restructured his contract and took a pay cut. If he’s doing it, and he’s had a dynasty and been to the Super Bowl multiple times, then it definitely works.”
Fajardo originally reworked the final year of his contract in December before tacking on an extra season this week. The West Division nominee for Most Outstanding Player in 2019 converted his $180,000 roster bonus, which was due on February 1, into a $140,000 signing bonus, while agreeing to a base salary of $250,000.
With housing and travel allowances, Fajardo will earn $404,000 in hard money this season. The Riders have sweetened the deal on the back end however, agreeing to a higher 2022 salary of $512,000.
Though the deal is less than what Fajardo agreed to heading into the canceled 2020 season, it still amounts to the biggest pay day in the young quarterback’s career and he only had one thing in mind when agreeing to sacrifice money up front.
“The ultimate goal is to take that team that we had in 2020 on paper and try and get as many guys back as we can,” Fajardo explained.
The Riders still have 19 pending free agents and Fajardo knows exactly who he wants general manager Jeremy O’Day to chase down next.
“Without a doubt, two guys — Swerve and Chuck,” Fajardo said without hesitation. “Kyran Moore and Charleston Hughes.”
Kyran Moore is one CFL receiver many pundits believe is poised to explode in 2021, following up a breakout 2019 campaign that saw him catch 78 passes for 996 yards and six touchdowns. Fajardo agrees, but he may have to fight off NFL suitors for his services.
As Fajardo signed his new contract, Moore was working out for the New York Giants and while he was not offered an NFL contract, the reviews were positive.
“I know Swerve’s got a great opportunity with the Giants and I wish him the best,” Fajardo said of his number two receiver. “Selfishly I would love for Swerve to be in a Rider uniform.”
While Moore would ensure the Riders have a potent aerial arsenal, Hughes provides something Fajardo can’t compensate for: defensive leadership. The veteran of twelve CFL seasons led the league in 2019 with 16 sacks at the age of 35 and his quarterback doesn’t think his value is diminished.
“Yes, he’s getting older but he’s a guy that you can just trust. A guy in the locker room who can help form some of these young guys and teach them about the CFL game, and how to be a pass rusher,” Fajardo explains.
“It’s so pivotal because a lot of times you see these stud American defensive linemen come up here and they just get shut down by these Canadian offensive linemen because they’re not used to a yard off the ball. There’s a lot of little intricacies that happen so you need a veteran presence like Charleston Hughes along the defensive line.”
Upon further review, Fajardo added one more name to his shopping list: Canadian linebacker Cam Judge.
“Man, he’s a terror on defence and just a guy I look up to. When he’s on the field, you know he’s going to be making plays,” he said of the Riders nominee for Most Outstanding Canadian. “That’s my dad’s favourite player, so I know my dad will be wanting me to reach out to him and get him back.”
As to who his father prefers, Cam Judge or his son, Fajardo had no comment.
“I haven’t really asked that because I don’t know if I want to know the answer,” he laughed.
Fajardo hopes his 2021 pay cut will be enough to bring that trio back to Riderville and load the team up for a Grey Cup run. While he may model his contract negotiations after Tom Brady, Fajardo has cast thoughts of the NFL aside and is entirely focused on making a Patriots-style dynasty in Regina.