Riders release all-star Charleston Hughes prior to CFL free agency

Photo courtesy: Hannah Souster

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have released star defensive lineman Charleston Hughes prior to the start of CFL free agency, per sources.

Any team can now sign Hughes without waiting until noon eastern time on Tuesday, February 9.

The 37-year-old led the CFL with 16 sacks during the 2019 season, adding 50 tackles, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one defensive touchdown in 17 games. Hughes was scheduled to earn $157,500 in 2020, however, he only received $10,000 due to the CFL season being cancelled.

“After ongoing negotiations that took place over the last several weeks, we were unable to come to an agreement with Charleston,” Riders general manager Jeremy O’Day said in a statement.

“While we are disappointed, we want to thank Charleston for his dedication to the Riders and to the Saskatchewan community during his time with the club.” 

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 acquired 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.

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.

If you didn’t look at his age, the stats would tell you Hughes remains in the prime of his career.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.