Kian Schaffer-Baker returns to Saskatchewan Roughriders as NFL window closes

Photo courtesy: David Friedrich/B.C. Lions

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are expected to have star Canadian receiver Kian Schaffer-Baker back in 2023 after the window for him to sign an NFL contract closed on Tuesday.

The six-foot-four, 205-pound target worked out for at least nine NFL teams over the past two months, including the Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Las Vegas Raiders, Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, and Cincinnati Bengals.

All CFL players are permitted to work out for teams south of the border via the league’s NFL window until free agency gets underway, at which point players who remain under contract in the CFL can no longer pursue NFL opportunities.

The 24-year-old made 68 receptions for 960 yards and five touchdowns this past season over 18 starts at wide receiver and slotback. He led the team in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns and was the second-most productive Canadian receiver league-wide behind only Kurleigh Gittens Jr. of the Toronto Argonauts.

General manager Jeremy O’Day indicated that Schaffer-Baker wasn’t included in the sales pitch to new franchise quarterback Trevor Harris as it remained unclear until Tuesday whether or not the receiver would sign in the NFL.

“Obviously, he’s excited to play with Schaff [sic]. … He definitely wanted to know what’s going on with our plans because … we were going into [free agency] with not a lot of our starters back, so there was going to be some significant change on offence,” O’Day told the media on Wednesday.

“He just was more wanting to know what the plan was and where we were going and then he certainly helped us in that process with talking to players, even players that haven’t even been in the CFL yet, he’s willing to give them a call. He hasn’t even been in the building but he’s recruiting for us.”

Shaq Evans, Duke Williams, Kyran Moore, and Justin McInnis departed Saskatchewan via free agency but the club added Jake Wieneke, Juwan Brescacin, and Shawn Bane from Montreal, Toronto, and Calgary, respectively. Bane was a rotational player for the Stampeders in 2022 but O’Day said the Riders view him as a starter.

With Schaffer-Baker back, it appears as though Saskatchewan’s starting lineup will include him alongside Wieneke, Bane, and Canadian slotback Brayden Lenius. The fifth starter has yet to be determined, though O’Day indicated that the club feels as though they can start three Canadians in the receiving corps.