Saskatchewan Roughriders in ‘ongoing discussions’ with former Ohio State running back Mike Weber following USFL release

Courtesy: AP Photo/Jay LaPrete

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are in talks with former Ohio State running back Mike Weber about taking his talents to the CFL.

Weber had been drafted in the 27th round of the inaugural United States Football League Draft by the New Jersey Generals, but failed to play in the team’s Week 1 game after being listed as questionable with a knee injury. He was downgraded to the practice squad shortly afterwards and released on April 19.

The 24-year-old is now available to sign with the Riders, who added him to their negotiation list on June 9, 2021.

“To be honest, we have had conversations with him,” Riders general manager Jeremy O’Day said. “We were in pretty strong discussions with him before, leading up to [him signing in] the USFL and actually were really surprised that his name was put into the USFL draft. We’ve done some work on him since then.”

The running back position is the team’s largest question mark heading in to training camp next month, following the departure of veteran William Powell. Second-year man Jamal Morrow is the favourite to assume the role, with former B.C. Lion Shaq Cooper brought in as experienced competition, but the door is wide open for a high-profile newcomer like Weber to come in and seize the job.

The five-foot-10, 211-pound back rose to prominence after he took over the starting role at Ohio State University in 2016, replacing former fourth overall NFL Draft pick Ezekiel Elliott. He recorded two 1,000-yard seasons for the Buckeyes, rushing 455 times for 2,676 yards with 24 touchdowns while averaging 5.9 yards per carry and recording 54 receptions for 297 yards and one touchdown.

Weber impressed at the 2019 NFL Combine by running a 4.47-second 40-yard dash and would go on to join Elliot in Dallas when the Cowboys selected him 218th overall in the seventh round of that year’s draft. He spent that season on the team’s practice roster before signing with the Kansas City Chiefs the next season.

He won a Super Bowl as part of the Chiefs’ practice squad, before stints with the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants. He was on the active roster for two games with the Packers in 2020, but did not record a carry. Weber reportedly earned $369,980 USD over the course of his time in the NFL.

The Riders clearly covet Weber as a backfield prospect and want to lure him north of the border, so long as everything checks out about his abrupt USFL departure. Whether he will be in Saskatoon to push Morrow for playtime is another question entirely.

“Do I think he’s going to be in camp? Do I think he’ll sign? It’s too early to tell that, but we have definitely had conversations with him about joining us,” O’Day said. “We felt strongly before and we just needed to do some work on what happened in the USFL, so there’s potential there. We’re having ongoing discussions with him.”

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.