GM Jeremy O’Day understands why Charleston Hughes circled date for his Riders return

CFL all-star defensive end Charleston Hughes had his sharpie ready for one particular game on the 2021 schedule.

Friday, September 17 has been circled.

That’s the day Hughes returns to Regina with the Toronto Argonauts to play against the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The 37-year-old had made the prairie capital his year-round home, but after contract negotiations with general manager Jeremy O’Day reached an impasse, the Riders released the three-down league’s reigning sack champion.

“I don’t know how you could look at his film from 2019 and say he lost a step, it certainly wasn’t to do with his play,” O’Day said in a videoconference.

Hughes notched 16 sacks in 17 games the last time the CFL played football. He forced four fumbles, recovered two more and took one back for a 45-yard touchdown. The six-foot-one, 246-pound pass rusher also notched 50 tackles, the second-highest single-season total of his 12-year career.

In 2020, Hughes was scheduled to earn $157,500 from the Green and White, however, he only received $10,000 due to the CFL season being cancelled. For 2021, Hughes has a base salary of $73,000 with the hard money total checking in at $155,000, including a $50,000 signing bonus from the Argos.

“Anytime you sign a player there’s multiple factors that come into a decision from both parties,” O’Day said.

“You have to have two parties that are willing to come to an agreement, we had conversations that were ongoing, that went on for an extended period of time, exchanged a number of offers, and unfortunately it just didn’t work out.”

After playing 34 games and totalling 31 sacks while consistently disrupting the opposing quarterback, Hughes and the Riders parted ways. O’Day went the exact opposite direction during his playing career. Following two seasons with Toronto, the former offensive lineman went West and spent 12 years playing for Saskatchewan’s beloved football team.

“I can understand that any player that leaves one team and goes to another will always circle the date when they are playing against their former team,” O’Day said.

“There’s certainly a lot of turnover that happens every year in the CFL, and there will be a lot of players that are in that same boat.”

Hughes boarded the Argos’ boat and wants to sink the Riders when he gets the chance in the fall.

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