Timing was everything for Saskatchewan Roughriders’ general manager Jeremy O’Day in regards to moving on from Canadian linebacker Cameron Judge.
The ultra-athletic defender had an NFL workout with the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday, February 11 — two days after the opening of CFL free agency.
“At a certain point, we have to eliminate some of our risk. We were aware, and they were really good through the process, that Cam was going to have an NFL workout. We were continuing to talk with him and his representation all through the process,” O’Day said in a videoconference.
“Once we found out that his workout was going to be after the free agent window, we really had a decision to make. At that point, the decision was do you wait and hope that you get him back or do you make a decision and attack free agency where you have a little bit more of the known versus the unknown.”
After considering various scenarios, O’Day made it clear to Judge and his agent that the Riders weren’t going to hold the salary required to sign the ratio-breaker. Judge was scheduled to earn $200,000 in 2020 before the season was cancelled. Even in a COVID-19 market, Judge is one of the rare non-quarterbacks across the league who would command a hefty salary.
“At that point — I’m not speaking for Cam — he has to make a decision whether he wants to go to the workout, take the opportunity to come back with us, or obviously he would be in contact with other teams at that point and I’m sure that he’ll have an opportunity in the CFL if he chooses to come back,” O’Day said.
“There was always a risk, and there still is, that Cam gets signed in the NFL because he is a free agent. There’s also the chance that we wouldn’t have got him back. We just didn’t feel like us holding that substantial amount of salary back in free agency and we did.”
O’Day allocated Judge’s money by signing twin Canadian linebackers Jordan and Justin Herdman-Reed to try and fill the void. After three years apart in the CFL, the Herdman-Reed tandem has teamed up again and both bring starting experience to the table. However, Judge is a unique talent who can’t simply be replaced.
“We had to make a decision. It was very thought through. It affected the way we approached free agency,” O’Day said. “We also considered whether we could switch our ratio if we didn’t have Cam back. We have the flexibility to do that.”