‘It’s not always a fan favourite decision’: Riders’ ‘difficult’ decisions lead to popular veterans signing elsewhere

Courtesy: AP Photo/Larry MacDougal

On the flip side of the flashy free agent signings are the players who don’t return when contracts come to an end.

Three prominent athletes had their time with the Saskatchewan Roughriders finish this offseason and signed contracts with opposing CFL teams: running back William Powell, strong-side linebacker/ defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy and cover man Ed Gainey.

“Just like every year, there’s going to be change on a team. Decisions are made on a lot of different reasons, age, salary, performance — all those things are included in that conversation,” general manager Jeremy O’Day said.

“Sometimes it’s not always a fan favourite decision but it’s what we get paid to do. Those are difficult decisions because they’re guys that went to battle for us on the field and they’ve been really good players for us. It’s part of the decisions that you have to do and they’re not always easy.”

Powell played 31 games for the green and white, carrying the ball 383 times for 1,826 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, with 15 touchdowns on the ground and added 75 receptions for 595 yards during two seasons in Riderville.

Purifoy played 40 games lining up a various spots on defence, recording 106 tackles, 13 special teams stops, eight interceptions, two sacks and one forced fumble with the Riders. He started at strong-side linebacker and multiple spots in the secondary.

Gainey spent five seasons in Regina, notching 241 tackles, 11 special teams stops, 21 interceptions, four forced fumbles, three defensive touchdowns and one sack in 83 games. He was a CFL all-star in 2017 and 2018 while playing for the green and white.

“Unless you’re sitting in the room with us when we’re going through our conversations, when you say, ‘You let somebody get away’ I think that’s a pretty strong word when you don’t really know who was offered back and not,” O’Day said.

“Decisions are hard to make and it’s not me sitting in a room by myself making the decision, it’s a group effort, we work together as a team and we make those decisions based on what we think is going to put us in the best position to win.”

Powell signed a one-year contract with the Redblacks for $80,000, Purifoy inked a two-year deal with the B.C. Lions which pays him $130,000 in hard money for the 2022 season with $10,000 available in per game playtime bonus money and Gainey put his signature on a one-year pact with the Elks worth $105,000.

While the veterans move on to other franchises, the Roughriders plan to go younger to fill each role entering a 2022 season where Saskatchewan hosts the Grey Cup in November.