Riders, Duke Williams have mutual interest in contract extension

Photo courtesy: Liam Richards/Saskatchewan Roughriders

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ general manager Jeremy O’Day believes that there is mutual interest in a contract extension between the team and star receiver Duke Williams.

“Duke was able to come in and it’s not an easy situation when you go into a team middle or later in the year and establish yourself in the locker room. Duke didn’t have to say much, he just kinda established himself at practice. It was pretty evident from his first time on the field that he was going to be a good player for us and he was gonna be what we needed down the stretch,” O’Day told the media.

“We certainly would like him back. He’s expressed his interest to come back, he enjoyed his time here. We’ll work towards getting him back, but he is certainly someone we’ll try to get back.”

Williams signed with Saskatchewan in early October following a three-year stint with the Buffalo Bills. He made his debut with the team in Week 12 and soon became Cody Fajardo’s favourite target, making 26 catches for 448 yards and two touchdowns in six outings including the postseason.

The Auburn product remains in his prime at just 28 years of age and has the potential to become a CFL all-star again as he was in 2018 with Edmonton.

O’Day is also interested in re-signed pending free agent receiver Shaq Evans, who had a disappointing season after being named an all-star in 2019. He caught 25 passes for 224 yards and zero touchdowns in seven regular season games in 2019 and made just one catch in the playoffs for negative yardage.

“We’d like to bring him back. It was a tough season for him — he had a decent first game and then the second game early on he broke his leg. I don’t think many people could understand how hard it is to come back from a broken leg — you essentially have to teach yourself how to walk again and then run,” said O’Day.

“We still think Shaq’s a good player. I don’t think a lot of people understand how much he prepares for the season and puts his body in great condition to play football and how hard he works at it. He’s a passionate guy, he wears his heart on his sleeve and we certainly would like to try to get him back and we’ll see if we would be able to.”

The Riders fell short of the Grey Cup in 2021, but O’Day remains proud of his team and the way in which they were able to face adversity amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“On the field I think we were pretty successful. We put ourselves in a good position going into the playoffs and getting a home playoff game. It was nice for us to get our first home playoff win in our stadium, which was a big deal for us,” he said.

“I’m really proud of all the guys. We had a lot of adversity we faced during the season and our guys just kept battling and stuck together. It was nice to see the guys continue to work together and we ultimately came up a little but short in the playoffs.”

Saskatchewan has gone 22-10 in the regular season since O’Day became the club’s permanent general manager in January 2019.