‘Every time you sign a big salary it has an impact’: Riders prepared for Duke Williams deal to fit under salary cap

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

The Saskatchewan Roughriders set aside the required funds to sign star receiver Duke Williams for the 2022 season.

After the Riders were eliminated in the West Final last year, general manager Jeremy O’Day made inking Williams to an extension his No. 1 priority and ensured his cost could fit under the league’s salary cap.

“It’s a big deal, I don’t want to say you become impatient, but at some point we have to make a decision and it’s part of the negotiation process,” O’Day said.

“It’s not anyone’s fault, there’s moving parts and once you get inside the window where other teams are able to talk to him, things can change pretty quickly. Everyone’s going to give the sales pitch on why he should go play for their team.”

The 28-year-old did not make it through the entire week allotted for speaking with rival teams, he decided to return to the Riders on Saturday, February 5. Williams put his signature on a one-year contract which included a $60,000 signing bonus, $180,000 in base salary, $12,000 to use towards housing and $3,000 in travel allowance for a hard money total of $255,000. If he’s chosen as a West Division all-star that unlocks $1,000 and earning CFL all-star status gives him $2,000 extra.

“From a salary cap perspective you really have to be prepared not to have him as well. It’s a puzzle piece that you have to figure out as you’re going through it because there is no guarantee until you reach an agreement. Then when that happens there is a sigh of relief,” O’Day said.

“Everyone needs to understand something about pro football, when you have a team that’s successful, whether we won the Grey Cup or not, you have players that perform at a high level and most of the players when we talk negotiations at the end of the year they’re going to ask for more money.”

Williams is in the prime of his pro football career and had a dominant finish last season after returning from the NFL. The six-foot-three, 225-pound target recorded 26 receptions for 448 yards and two touchdowns in six games, including the playoffs, averaging 17.1 yards per catch. He had two 100-yard efforts while quickly developing a rapport with quarterback in Cody Fajardo.

He initially signed with Saskatchewan in October 2021 following a three-year stint in Buffalo where recorded 12 receptions for 166 yards and one touchdown — a game-winning TD in his NFL debut — and earned nearly $700,000 USD with the Bills. Williams earned $73,000 prorated last CFL season and if a full 18-game regular season was played, he would have collected $145,000 while his compensation for 2022 gives him a $110,000 bump.

“Every time you sign a big salary it has an impact on the team,” O’Day said. “There are players that got substantial raises that you have to account for.”