The province of Saskatchewan has been in an uproar following the release of star defensive end Charleston Hughes by the Riders on Wednesday, but TSN analyst Glen Suitor believes some of that anger may be misdirected.
The two sides reported reached an impasse over a difference of $15,000, a point that has caused many to blame Riders GM Jeremy O’Day for not retaining the sack artist. According to Suitor, a more nuanced view is required.
“Let’s say it was $15,000 which was the difference, which is about $7,500 after taxes,” he told listeners on The SportsCage Thursday.
“Yes, you could say that Jeremy O’Day and the team for $8,000, $10,000, $15,000, why didn’t they pull the trigger and get this thing done? But you can also say it from the player’s perspective. If Charleston said he really wanted to be a Rider, and he wanted to stay in that atmosphere, and play in that stadium with a jam-packed Mosaic, for $7,500 after taxes, with off-field opportunities in that city, this works both ways.”
Hughes, who signed with Toronto Argonauts on Thursday, reportedly offered to cut his own pay in his final offer to the team but the two sides still couldn’t find common ground.
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.
The six-foot-one, 246-pound pass rusher has led the CFL in sacks five times in his career: 2013, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. Hughes has played 181 career CFL games, mostly with Calgary, recording 457 tackles, 130 sacks, 30 forced fumbles, three interceptions and three defensive touchdowns. During his two seasons in Saskatchewan, Hughes averaged nearly one sack per game with 31 in 34 contests.
Following his release by the Riders, Hughes told popular talk show host Rod Pedersen that while the decision to part ways before free agency was mutual, O’Day had refused to wait the three extra days necessary for him to collect his final government assistance cheque. Suitor places little weight in those allegations.
“There’s this notion that the Riders released him to deliberately rip him off of the $300 or $400 government subsidy that he could’ve got on the sixth of February, but they released him just before it and so he wasn’t eligible for that. It wasn’t a lot of money but it was a shot across the bow,” he explained.
“The notion that Jeremy O’Day might have deliberately tried to rip him off of a government cheque is ludicrous. Don’t go there, there is no way. Jeremy O’Day is a good person to the core and so is Craig Reynolds. They’re not going to deliberately do that. It wasn’t working out in negotiations, let him go and do his thing.”
The former CFL all-star and veteran commentator has seen plenty of contract negotiations in his time around the league and has a much simpler explanation for the resentment voiced by Hughes.
“In these type of situations, most players that are either cut or traded or come to a standstill in negotiations and end up signing with another team, most of them are unhappy with their former club,” Suitor said. “The club will not go into the gutter with that player.”
Despite all the hard feelings by Hughes and the fan base, Suitor believes the other perspective has just as much weight.
“You can point to O’Day and say hey for that much money you should’ve closed the gap, but you can also say to Hughes: if you really wanted to be a Rider, you could’ve closed the gap too.”