Saskatchewan Roughriders make strong offer to veteran QB Trevor Harris

Photo courtesy: Kevin Sousa/CFL

The Saskatchewan Roughriders have tendered a strong multi-year contract offer to pending free agent quarterback Trevor Harris, per sources.

Harris remains under contract with the Montreal Alouettes until free agency opens on Tuesday, February 14 but he’s able to field offers from other teams as part of the CFL’s negotiating window which opened on Sunday, February 5 at noon eastern time.

According to sources, the Riders have an interest in CFL all-star receiver Eugene Lewis who has played alongside Harris for the last two seasons. While the veteran QB may not be able to put pen to paper yet, the green and white are hoping he reaches a decision quickly in order to help recruit other free agents.

General manager Jeremy O’Day has money to spend with approximately $480,000 open from Cody Fajardo’s expiring contract. Expiring deals for Duke Williams ($255,000), Shaq Evans ($130,000) and Kyran Moore ($120,000) give Saskatchewan $405,000 in cap dollars to potentially use on playmakers.

It’s worth noting O’Day and Harris played for Edinboro University on the way to their respective pro careers. Harris completed 71.6 percent of his passes for 4,157 yards with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 15 starts this past season. He produced an 8-7 win-loss record while leading Montreal to the Alouettes’ first postseason victory since 2014.

Decision-makers in Montreal had expressed confidence in their ability to retain their star signal-caller before he hit the open market but were unable to get a deal done ahead of the negotiating window opening.

The Als hired Jason Maas as the franchise’s 27th head coach in the hopes of reuniting him with Harris. The pair spent three seasons together with the Toronto Argonauts (2012-2014) when Maas was the team’s quarterbacks coach.

Maas and Harris worked together again in 2019 with the Edmonton Football Team. The latter completed 71.7 percent of his passes for 4,027 yards with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions over 13 games, as the team advanced to the East Final as a crossover team.

However, Harris has been noncommittal about his future in Montreal in recent weeks, with an uncertain ownership situation being the main reason for dissuading the Alouettes’ most impactful players from re-signing. That has allowed Saskatchewan to pitch to the 36-year-old with the hopes of getting his signature on paper to lead first-time coordinator Kelly Jeffrey’s offence.

“We’re going to put them in a position to be successful. We’re going to do the things that they do well and we’re going to make sure they’re protected and we’re going to do that in a variety of ways,” Jeffrey said about his approach with quarterbacks when he was hired in December.

The Roughriders prefer a new starting quarterback for the 2023 season after benching Fajardo with two games left in a disappointing campaign last year. By joining Saskatchewan, Harris would become the face of the league’s most-followed franchise and play for a rabid fan base. He would also get a financial benefit as Sakatchewan’s lower tax rate would put more take-home money in his bank account compared to staying in Quebec.

Through ten CFL seasons, Harris has completed 70.7 percent of his passes for 28,610 yards with 154 touchdowns and 71 interceptions. He has seen success as a starter with the Argos, Redblacks, Elks and Alouettes, putting up a 48-46-2 win-loss record. In 2018 the Waldo, OH native set a single-game CFL playoff record with six touchdown passes in an East Final win to lead Ottawa to a Grey Cup appearance.

He’s been a backup to Ricky Ray (2012) and Henry Burris (2016) during seasons in which those Canadian Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks guided teams to CFL titles. The precision passer led the three-down league with 33 touchdown passes in 2015 and earned East Division all-star honours in 2016.

Harris was traded to Montreal in 2021 while earning $515,000 that season. He proceeded to ink a one-year, incentive-heavy agreement to stay with the Als last offseason. The six-foot-three, 212-pound pivot proved himself right by quickly unseating incumbent Vernon Adams Jr. and taking over the starting job in Week 2.

Harris has been a follower of Tom Brady’s TB12 Method to lengthen his CFL playing career as long as possible. He believes there are many years ahead for him in the pros while playing at a high level on the football field.

Saskatchewan has put a lucrative offer on the table to establish the Riders as the favourites to earn Harris’ signature.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.