With free agency just a week away, it would appear the Charleston Hughes era in Saskatchewan is coming to a close.
The star defensive end joined The Rod Pedersen Show Tuesday and didn’t hold back when asked about his contract negotiations with the Riders.
“We are just at a crossroads. The team is viewing things one way, I’m viewing things another way and we are stuck at a standstill,” Hughes explained. “The conversations were good at first, we had some real good talks where I thought things were headed in a good direction, but like I said, we are at a crossroads. I don’t know which direction I’m going to head from here.”
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.
Other teams are clearly interested in the aging sack-master and Hughes has evaluated his market value, but Riders’ GM Jeremy O’Day has remained firm on his final offer.
“When it’s really said and done, I have offers on the tables from other teams and I’m at a crossroads where the team really isn’t looking to have me in Saskatchewan,” Hughes said.
“They’re not really looking to match any offer I’ve been given or brought back to the table for the team. It’s a situation where I either have to stay here or leave and that’s really the truth of it.”
Despite the contractual impasse, Hughes has no hard feelings over how the team has handled itself.
“There is nothing to say that’s bad about how the team has operated with me or what their approach was. I think they approached things with the utmost professionalism and I felt like I’ve done the same the entire time,” Hughes continued. “At no point in time did I ever say I was not going to take a pay cut. At no point in time did I say I definitely don’t want to be a Saskatchewan Roughrider.”
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 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 future Hall of Famer has put down roots in the Regina area and would like to stay put, but firmly believes it takes two to tango.
“It has to be a want from both sides. I want to be here, I’m showing that I want to be here and it has to come from the other side too, saying we’ve exhausted every option of trying to help you be here and we’ve given you every option to be here,” Hughes said. “It has to be a mutual feeling from both sides.”
While the odds seem stacked against a return and multiple outside offers are on the table, Hughes feels the love from Rider Nation and still hopes for a miracle.
“I still have about seven days to make a decision. Whether I stay or I leave, it was awesome being here. I still have intentions to be here and maybe something will change in the next few days.”