‘I don’t think it’s about vindication’: Riders GM Jeremy O’Day proven right regarding Charleston Hughes decision

Courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com and Saskatchewan Roughriders. Edit: 3DownNation.

Saskatchewan Roughriders general manager Jeremy O’Day has been proven right in his final decision to allow Charleston Hughes to leave the green and white.

Last off-season O’Day came under scrutiny from fans and pundits for opting against re-signing the aging pass rusher who was coming off a 2019 season in which he lead the CFL with 16 sacks in 17 games.

“I would be lying to you to say that we didn’t have interest in bringing him back. There was definitely interest when we were going through that process, but we just realized through the process that it wasn’t going to be a fit and that’s what led to him going to Toronto,” O’Day said.

Hughes signed a two-year contract with the Argonauts in February 2021. He played nine games with the double blue, recording 18 tackles and two sacks during the shortened 14-game regular season. Toronto made the six-foot-one, 246-pound defensive lineman a healthy scratch multiple times last season.

“I don’t think there’s ever a situation where a guy doesn’t come back or we don’t bring a guy back and you’re super excited if he doesn’t do well, you want them to do the best that they can,” O’Day said.

It was the least productive season of Hughes’ career and the 38-year-old remains a free agent. The Argos released him in late December with one year left on his pact for the 2022 season worth $145,000 in hard money. O’Day admitted there were no signs of a falloff coming for Hughes based on his 2019 game film.

“If I said that I’d probably be lying because he had such a strong year the last year that he had with us. It’s just a matter of having the year off and adding another year to the age. Being a former player, I have that side of it where I know it doesn’t always end up the way you want it to,” O’Day said.

“I don’t think it’s about vindication or being right or being wrong. We have to make a lot of decisions every year on players and where they’re at in their career. Who knows what the situation would’ve been if Charleston was back with us, whether he’d a had the same season last year or not.”

Hughes led the CFL in sacks five times in his career: 2013, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. The two-time Grey Cup champion’s played 190 career CFL games, recording 475 tackles, 132 sacks, 30 forced fumbles, three interceptions and three defensive touchdowns. Father time is undefeated, especially in pro football, but nobody expected the drop off to be so dramatic with Hughes.

“You try to time those up as good as possible, I know the saying it’s better a year too early than a year too late. It’s just the ongoing process that you have after every year,” O’Day said.

“In Saskatchewan we have such a strong fanbase that are so attached to our players and our players attached to them that those decisions become rather close.”