Cody Fajardo may not have been wanted back in Regina next season but he was a hot commodity on the free-agent market.
The new quarterback of the Montreal Alouettes made an appearance on The Rod Pedersen Show on Friday and revealed that two-thirds of CFL teams kicked his tires before his contract with the Saskatchewan Roughriders expired on Tuesday.
“The first day of the open window (February 5), I had six teams call my agent. There was a lot of teams interested and some circumstances were different than others,” Fajardo explained. “Some wanted me as a veteran backup but what I will say is it came down to Toronto and Montreal, obviously, to be given the best opportunity to compete for a starting job.”
Fajardo spent the past three seasons with Saskatchewan, throwing for 10,632 yards with 48 touchdowns and 32 interceptions as a member of the team. He also rushed 266 times for 1,436 yards and 22 scores.
However, the 30-year-old signal caller was benched with two games remaining in the 2022 campaign with his team not yet eliminated from playoff contention. He threw for 3,360 yards, 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while rushing for 357 yards and eight majors in a disappointing season marred by injury.
The Riders opted to go a different direction at quarterback, poaching veteran Trevor Harris from Montreal as they underwent a difficult ownership situation. That made the Alouettes an obvious destination where Fajardo could maintain his starting status. The defending Grey Cup champion Argonauts — where he began his CFL career — offered another intriguing alternative but were ultimately too risky due to the uncertainty around incumbent veteran McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s future.
“They didn’t really know what was going on with McLeod, but Montreal and I, we worked fast,” the quarterback said. “I felt like it was the place to be and I prayed on it.”
After being handed a nearly impossible situation in the lead-up to free agency, Alouettes’ general manager Danny Maciocia has been vocal about his excitement in being able to land a new franchise pivot on such short notice. For Fajardo, that was apparent on the phone almost immediately.
“I think we struck a deal pretty quickly in the open window and that’s what I felt talking with Danny Mac, just getting him and feeling his excitement for me,” he recalled.
“What really sold me was he said, ‘You had a down year last year, but I can’t base your play off of one year. You have a lot of body of work. I’ve watched every single one of your reps. You’re a great quarterback in this league, and I believe in you.'”
Also among the believers was new Alouettes’ head coach Jason Maas, who was fired from his job as Roughriders’ offensive coordinator last season. Though questions have been raised about their schematic compatibility, the pair got along well and Maas has consistently jumped to Fajardo’s defence for his down season, pointing to his grade-two MCL sprain as the root cause.
With both the head coach and GM firmly on his side, the six-foot-two, 223-pound passer is excited to make his mark on a Montreal franchise that will look dramatically different from the one that made the playoffs a year ago.
“I think what Danny Mac and Coach Maas are doing over there with the circumstances that they’ve had, they’re putting together a really good football team that has me excited,” Fajardo said.
“The thing that I really like is it’s going to be new ownership, a new head coach and a new franchise quarterback, so there’s a lot of new and a lot of optimism. To keep that going, we’ve got to win some football games early.”
Despite all the positives drawing him to Montreal, there was one downside that the quarterback did have to come to terms with. After his unceremonious departure from Riderville, there will be no chance to exact his revenge in person in 2023.
“The only unfortunate thing is there is no game in Regina this year,” Fajardo said with a chuckle. “I looked at the schedule after signing in Montreal and was sad to see that I won’t be going there, but maybe a year off before we go back over there is much needed.”