Paxton Lynch starts 2021 CFL season as Riders third-string quarterback

Paxton Lynch starts the 2021 season as the Saskatchewan Roughriders third-string quarterback.

Head coach Craig Dickenson confirmed the Riders will begin the year with Cody Fajardo as the No. 1 QB with Isaac Harker the backup and Lynch number three on the depth chart.

“We think Lynch is going to be a heckuva quarterback. It’s difficult during the season because you just don’t get a lot of reps for the twos and the threes. He’s still a little ways away. He’s gotta learn the game,” Dickenson said.

“The CFL is a different game. Almost every quarterback I know, with the exception of Ricky Ray, took a full year to figure it out. Ricky was thrown in as a rookie and he took off. For the most part, all good quarterbacks — even the great ones — they had to sit and watch for a year and figure out all the different nuances of this game.”

Lynch acclimated himself to the CFL brand of football quick enough during training camp to earn the trust of offensive coordinator Jason Maas and the rest of the Riders football operations department.

Lynch’s compensation for the current year includes $65,000 in base salary, $3,600 in housing, and a $200-per-game active roster bonus. He can also earn an extra $500 for every game in which he plays 51 percent or more of the offensive snaps.

There are all-star and award incentives available in his deal as well: $1,000 West Division all-star; $2,000 league all-star; and $3,000 for being named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player.

He signed a two-year contract with Saskatchewan in June which runs through the 2022 campaign. However, it does include an NFL window if teams from south of the border coming calling after the 2021 season.

Even though Lynch earned north of $8.8 million in the NFL, Dickenson believes he’s still hungry to prepare like a pro and play football at a high level in the three-down league.

The Riders originally reached out to Lynch last October after putting him on the team’s exclusive negotiation list in September. He had just bought a house in the Mile High City with his wife, Gabrielle.

Canadian football is a style of the game Lynch never expected to play after being selected by the Denver Broncos at No. 26 overall during the 2016 NFL Draft. Following just four starts, general manager John Elway gave up on Lynch and released him after two seasons in the Colorado capital city.

The 27-year-old spent two seasons in Denver, suiting up in five games. He had a 1-3 win-loss record while completing 61.7 percent of his passes for 792 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions. Lynch hasn’t played in an NFL game since the 2017 season. Seattle and Pittsburgh released him among the final training camp cuts in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

Lynch was a prolific passer at the University of Memphis. He started 38 games for the Tigers passing for 8,863 yards, 59 touchdowns versus 23 interceptions with a 62.9 completion rate while adding 687 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns. After being tabbed as a three-star recruit by Rivals, Lynch outperformed his ranking in the NCAA.

The Florida native was a two-time, all-conference honouree, one of 12 finalists for the Manning Award and one of five finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. He was also a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award and for the 79thMaxwell Award.

In his junior collegiate season, he tied an NCAA record by completing seven touchdown passes in the first half of a game and finished the year ranked 11th in the NCAA in passing efficiency (157.5). Lynch decided to forgo his final collegiate season to enter the NFL Draft. 

Lynch didn’t enter training camp with an ego or thinking he was going to easily dominate in the CFL and it’s earned him a chance to further develop in Canada.

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