Riders’ GM Jeremy O’Day doesn’t anticipate stars Hughes, Elimimian will both be back

Screenshot courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

It appears that at least one of the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ star defensive players will not be back with the team in 2021.

Charleston Hughes and Solomon Elimimian are set to hit the CFL free agent market on February 9. General manager Jeremy O’Day said he’s still hoping to re-sign some of his players, but acknowledges that at least one of the two veterans will likely be signing with another team.

“I wouldn’t anticipate that we’d have them both back,” said O’Day. “In some cases you wish you could just bring the team back from where you were, but that’s not the reality of the environment that we’re in. We have to make some decisions.”

“It really has to be a mutual agreement where the team has to offer a contract and the player has to want to be back with your organization.”

The other big pending free agent on the defensive side of the ball is linebacker Cameron Judge. The 26-year-old is the West Division’s reigning Most Outstanding Canadian after recording 72 total tackles, five sacks, two interceptions, and one forced fumble in 2019.

O’Day said that Judge is still looking to exhaust his NFL opportunities before signing a CFL contract and currently has a workout lined up in the United States.

If you’re hoping to see the Saskatchewan Roughriders make a big splash in free agency, it sounds like you’ll need to temper your expectations.

“It’s going to depend on how everything shakes down with our guys,” said O’Day. “We have offers to a couple of our guys still that are on the table and that we’re waiting for them to decide whether or not they want to come back to our team or not.

“If those don’t happen, then we could be a little more active than you’d expect. In general, I would say that we’re not going to be overly active in free agency.”

One thing that will help Saskatchewan make some additions in free agency is the pay cuts that were accepted by many of their older players.

Earlier this winter, the Riders approached all of their veterans who were signed beyond the 2020 season to restructure their contracts. Players who agreed to new contracts included Cody Fajardo, Brendon LaBatte, and A.C. Leonard.

“I’m just really proud of all of our players that stepped up in that time,” said O’Day. “They’re all committed to being part of our team. They all stepped up. They all understood the environment that we’re dealing with.”