‘We’re not going to get into how close we are’: Riders contract ‘discussions ongoing’ with Duke Williams

Photo courtesy: Liam Richards/Saskatchewan Roughriders

The Saskatchewan Roughriders’ best pending free agent, star receiver Duke Williams, has not yet signed a contract extension with the club for the 2022 season.

Williams is unquestionably the top priority on the Riders board and general manager Jeremy O’Day has decided to keep contract discussions with him out of the public. The CFL free agent market officially opens on Tuesday, Feb. 8 at noon ET.

“We’re not going to get into how close we are or where we’re at with negotiations with the players. I don’t know that it’s a good thing to do right in the middle of the negotiation period,” O’Day said.

“We have discussions ongoing with multiple players, some on our team and some on other teams. From a strategy perspective, it’s important for us to keep some of that stuff to ourselves on where we’re at with certain players.”

In December, O’Day stated there was mutual interest in a contract extension between the team and Williams. He initially signed with Saskatchewan in October 2021 following a three-year stint with the Buffalo Bills with whom he notched 12 catches for 166 yards and one touchdown — a game-winning TD in his NFL debut — and earned nearly $700,000 USD.

The six-foot-three, 225-pound target made his debut with the Riders in Week 12 and went on to record 26 catches for 448 yards and two touchdowns in six games, including the postseason, averaging 17.1 yards per catch.

“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,” O’Day said in December.

The 28-year-old earned $73,000 last CFL season and if a full 18-game regular season was played, Williams would have collected $145,000. According to league sources, Williams will command over $200,000 whether he hits free agency or the Roughriders sign him to an extension.

During 2018 — his only full season north of the border — Williams recorded 88 receptions for a league-leading 1,579 yards and 11 touchdowns in 18 games, averaging 17.9 yards per catch.

Saskatchewan must be aware of Edmonton GM and head coach Chris Jones wanting to bring Williams back to the Green and Gold. There would be multiple teams after the playmaker if he sees what the market has to offer.