Saskatchewan Roughriders’ star Charleston Hughes is expected to explore the CFL’s negotiating window, and potentially hit the open market, per sources.
Prior to free agency opening on February 9, teams will have one week to contact players who have expiring contracts from other franchises. That period begins on January 31 at noon ET this year.
General manager Jeremy O’Day is in a precarious position trying to retain the majority of the group that put up a 13-5 record in 2019, claiming first place in the West Division. On offence O’Day has secured key personnel, defence is much different, impact players at every level are pending free agents. Starting with Hughes, linebackers Cameron Judge, Solomon Elimimian, and cover man Ed Gainey.
Hughes was scheduled to earn $157,500 in 2020, however, he only received $10,000 due to the CFL season being cancelled. Teams across the country are cutting player expenditures by spending to the salary cap floor for the 2021 season, but the reigning sack champion deserves a fair offer from the Riders.
The 37-year-old led the league with 16 sacks during the 2019 season, adding 50 tackles, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one defensive touchdown in 17 games. Hughes felt he was snubbed for the West Division Most Outstanding Defensive Player award, which went to Willie Jefferson.
Jefferson recently agreed to a reworked contract with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He’s set to earn $205,000 in hard money for the 2021 season. Rival personnel men agree Hughes can still produce at a high level and should be paid accordingly.
After being voted a CFL all-star by the media and head coaches, Hughes drew the ultimate sign of respect from his competitors and earned a CFL Players’ Association first-team selection. Offensive tackles have been trying to slow down Hughes for years and it hasn’t happened on a consistent basis.
The star pass rusher has led the CFL in sacks five times in his career: 2013, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. The two-time Grey Cup champion had spent his entire career in Calgary until he was dealt to Hamilton and then to Saskatchewan.
Hughes was originally acquired by the Green and White in February 2018 when the Riders sent quarterback Vernon Adams to the Ticats.
Hughes has played 181 career CFL games, recording 457 tackles, 130 sacks, 30 forced fumbles, three interceptions and three defensive touchdowns. During his two seasons in Saskatchewan, Hughes has averaged nearly one sack per game with 31 in 34 contests.
If you didn’t look at his age, the stats would tell you Hughes remains in the prime of his career.