Riders’ GM Jeremy O’Day’s steady style an advantage in 2021 CFL free agency

Screenshot courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

A free agency period like no other is about to open in the CFL.

Never before has free agency opened without games having been played the previous year. Pair that with the fact that revenue is shrinking and it goes without saying that free agency in 2021 is going to be quite the test for both teams and players.

Every team in the CFL has openly talked about the need to lower player costs for 2021, which is completely understandable. Football operations already saw their salary cap lowered a while ago. Hopefully, that same attitude applies to the rest of the organization.

For their part, players have been willing to make the necessary sacrifices to return to the field in 2021. Roughriders’ general manager Jeremy O’Day told reporters on Friday that every player he’s re-signed so far has agreed to a reduction in salary with the exception of players coming off rookie contracts.

What will happen when the doors to the market swing open on February 9? Anyone’s guess is as good as mine. Plenty of players have already re-signed with their teams from 2019 and money will be tight. It’s not unreasonable to expect a slower day than we’ve seen in the past.

No matter what happens, the Riders are in good hands to handle whatever comes their way.

Since being named general manager in early 2019, O’Day has more or less come as advertised. He’s not one to throw money around or go for the big splash. The former offensive linemen takes a more steady approach, plugging holes as necessary while looking for good value rather than chasing flashy names.

In 2020, O’Day signed quarterback James Franklin after he was released prior to the opening of free agency and offensive lineman Josiah St. John. That was about it.

O’Day instead opted to make sure he re-signed the players he wanted and trusted his scouting staff to find talent available in the draft and the United States instead.

The lead up to this year’s free agency has been much of the same for O’Day. Yes, names like Cameron Judge, Charleston Hughes, and Solomon Elimimian remain. Some of that may be by choice, and some of it is out of O’Day’s hands.

O’Day said he didn’t expect to be too busy and given his history, there’s little reason not to believe him.

With less money to play with than in previous years, having a general manager who is already in the habit of not building through free agency is perhaps more important than ever.

The Riders should be happy to have one.

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