Riders GM Jeremy O’Day ‘can’t come off’ his budget to sign star Charleston Hughes

Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are still discussing a potential contract extension with star defensive lineman Charleston Hughes.

Hughes is a pending free agent with the market scheduled to open Tuesday, February 9 at noon ET, and the negotiating window begins January 31 at noon ET this year.

“We’re pinging stuff back and forth while trying to work things out. We’re still stuck in the same place that we were at the beginning of negotiations,” Hughes told Regina Leader-Post reporter Murray McCormick.

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 spending to the salary cap floor for the 2021 season. General manager Jeremy O’Day is trying to retain the group that put up a 13-5 record in 2019, claiming first place in the West Division.

“The only thing that I’ve been told is that there is a budget that he has to stick with and he can’t come off that budget. He knows what’s best for the team,” Hughes said.

“They are trying to get everyone back from the team before, because we had a chance at winning the Grey Cup. They have been doing a good job of signing everybody.”

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.

“I’m 37, but I’m luckier than most 37-year-old football players and that’s because I don’t have a lot of football years. I didn’t start playing football until I was a senior in high school. I didn’t play physical contact sports when I was young,” Hughes said.

“Even in college, I only played defence and I didn’t play on special teams so I don’t have a lot of wear and tear in my 13-year career. I’ve only had two surgeries in my entire career. Who can say that at 37?”

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.

“It would be pretty selfish of me to keep the team in limbo and not be 100 percent honest and direct with them on how to approach the rest of their players,” Hughes said.

“If I make it until January 31 without having some kind of deal or contract in place or talks about something, I will have to do what’s best for me and talk to other teams and figure out if I can work out a deal with someone else.”