Insider Talk: Fajardo’s vet day, guaranteed CFL contracts, Jones’ future

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

Insider Talk is a bi-weekly feature on 3DownNation that includes anonymous quotes from people around the CFL — players, coaches, personnel people, executives, agents — regarding the latest news around the league. It’s a combination of insight, analysis, rumours, and friendly gossip.

This week’s Insider Talk is full of discussion regarding Cody Fajardo’s vet day, whether or not Chris Jones will be back as the head coach and general manager in Edmonton next year, the possibility of B.C. signing franchise quarterback Nathan Rourke to a contract extension, the nature of the league’s new guaranteed contracts, and Glen Constantin becoming the all-time winningest coach in U Sports history.

Enjoy this week’s quotes and come back in two weeks for another edition of Insider Talk.

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In all my years in this game, I have never, ever heard of a player taking a vet day coming off a bye week, much less with the season on the line. It just doesn’t make any sense. The only explanation I can think of is maybe they want to see what they have in Mason Fine to figure out whether or not they need to go out and sign a high-priced quarterback in free agency. Regardless, it just seems off.

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(Head coach and general manager Chris) Jones will be back in Edmonton next year, I’m almost sure of it. They’ve signed a number of players to contract extensions in recent weeks and they’ve all included guaranteed money. Why would the upper brass permit him to make those moves if they planned to fire him in a couple of weeks? It doesn’t make any sense.

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B.C. would be smart to sign (franchise quarterback) Nathan Rourke to an extension now (instead of letting him go into the final year of his rookie deal in 2023). It’ll cost them a bunch of money, sure, but he’s the best recruitment tool a team could have. Last year that team had to overpay for talent in free agency. Now they’re going to be at or near the top of every free agent’s list of where they want to sign because, unless Rourke goes to the NFL, they’ll be playing with the best quarterback in the league.

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These partially guaranteed contracts are great for the guys who get them but they’re probably just going to go to quarterbacks and maybe one or two other stars on each team. The cap in this league is still not high and it’s pretty unforgiving – if you give guaranteed money to the wrong player, it adds up quick.

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When I first came into the league, I spent a lot of time crunching the numbers to try to figure out who we might play in the playoffs or who we might have to face from the other division. These days, I don’t. It’s a big waste of time. That’s the great thing about our league – especially by this time of the year, anybody can beat anybody.

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The (CFL) trade deadline will never be busy because almost everyone is still in playoff contention. First-round picks are expensive and any picks later than that aren’t necessarily worth acquiring. They’re kind of a crapshoot, especially because we don’t know what draft classes look like anymore. In the past, you’d know how many good players there were going to be. Now it all changes depending on who defers their draft year.

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The best running back in the league this year has been (Calgary Stampeders’) Ka’Deem Carey, but (Winnipeg’s Brady) Oliveira needs to be in the conversation as well. He’s gotten better as the season’s gone on and he’s really the only guy who’s managed to stay healthy all season. Everyone else has just missed too much time or not made enough of an impact.

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(Laval’s) Glen Constantin is the best coach in U Sports and, with all due respect to the other coaches across the country — and there are lots of good ones — it’s not that close. He checks every box. He knows how to build and sustain a great program, he knows how to get the most out of his players, and he does an excellent job of in-game management. He set that record for a reason.

John Hodge is a CFL insider and draft analyst who has been covering the league since 2014.