Odds of NFL first-rounder Paxton Lynch returning to Riders ‘pretty slim’: GM Jeremy O’Day

Former NFL first-round pick Paxton Lynch is unlikely to be back in the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ quarterback room next season, according to general manager Jeremy O’Day.

The six-foot-seven, 244-pound passer spent the entire 2021 regular season on the Riders active roster or one-game injured list, allowing him to collect his full salary while learning the three-down game and honing his skills on the Canadian field.

However, Lynch was placed on the team’s suspended list ahead of the playoffs and has remained there throughout the off-season.

“I think we were pretty upfront with the fact that he wasn’t vaccinated and we would be in a situation where in the playoffs or if we went to the Grey Cup, if he was on the roster then he wouldn’t have been able to travel with the team,” O’Day told Rob Vanstone and Murray McCormick of the Regina Leader-Post.

“We are having conversations with him about potentially coming back. He’s also got some interest down south and some other opportunities that may come into a factor with him. If I had to say right now, the likelihood of him being back would be pretty slim.”

While the CFL does not have a vaccination mandate, federal government regulations surrounding air travel, both foreign and domestic, means that in practice all players must be immunized next season. With no such requirements south of the border, Lynch may try to leverage the Riders into releasing him so he can participate in a US-based league.

Lynch’s compensation for the 2021 season included $65,000 in base salary, $3,600 in housing with a $200-per-game active roster bonus possible. He could have earned an extra $500 for every game in which he played 51 percent or more of the offensive snaps.

However, the 27-year-old did not dress for a game as Cody Fajardo, Isaac Harker, and Mason Fine were the three quarterbacks used by Saskatchewan on game day rosters during the regular season. Lynch’s current contract runs through the end of the 2022 season.

After being selected 26th overall by the Denver Broncos in the 2016 Draft, Lynch earned more than $8.8 million in the NFL. He suited up in five games during two seasons in Denver, posting 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.

The Riders already have a tailor-made Lynch replacement in place thanks to the signing of six-foot-seven Jake Dolegala earlier this week. The Central Connecticut State product first caught their eye at the College Gridiron Showcase in 2019 and they’ve kept close tabs on him through backup stints with the Bengals, Patriots, Packers and Dolphins.

The Hamburg, New York native trains with former Riders’ receiver Naaman Roosevelt in the offseason and came highly recommended.

“We really just had him on our negotiation list and wanted to add a good quarterback to the group. He expressed his interest back and we were able to work out a deal,” O’Day noted. “The first thing that will jump out is his arm strength and we really just feel like he has the ability to make all the throws on our big field.”