The Saskatchewan Roughriders added big-name talents like quarterback Trevor Harris and receiver Jake Wieneke in free agency, but it appears that the green and white narrowly missed out on adding four-time all-star Greg Ellingson.
In an interview on 620 CKRM’s The SportsCage, the Montreal Alouettes’ newest receiver revealed that the Riders and Calgary Stampeders were the other two teams seriously vying for his services. Unfortunately for fans in Regina, Saskatchewan finished with silver in the sweepstakes.
“It was really close. They were probably the second one that was the highest on the offering but also all the coaches called me from there,” Ellingson said. “The GM, I talked to him quite a bit. Trevor Harris was lobbying me pretty hard to try to get over there, as he usually does. It just didn’t end up working out and then I made my decision.”
Ellingson and Harris remain close friends from their time together in Ottawa and Edmonton, chatting regularly throughout the year. However, a sales job from the Roughriders’ shiny new franchise quarterback was not enough to convince the 34-year-old to pull on the green and white.
Instead, it was the signal caller most recently run out of Saskatchewan, Cody Fajardo, who most intrigued Ellingson and proved to be a deciding factor in his choice to go to Montreal.
“When looking at it as far as the quarterback situation, it seems like Cody has something to prove, a little chip on his shoulder,” he explained. “He showed that he can ball and he can lead teams that win over the past couple of years.”
“I know he could give a testament to this, but he felt like he got disserviced a little bit with the situation there. When you have a guy that’s got a fire underneath him and a chip on his shoulder, that’s always a good situation to be in.”
Fajardo was benched by the Riders late last year after spending three seasons as the team’s starting quarterback. He signed with the Alouettes as a replacement for the departed Harris, who felt that Regina offered greener pastures and more stability.
The dual-threat passer wasn’t the first Saskatchewan castoff to head to La Belle Province this offseason, joining new Alouettes’ head coach Jason Maas. The 47-year-old former quarterback was fired following his second season as the Riders’ offensive coordinator but landed on his feet in Montreal. A hire that Ellingson cited as his second-biggest reason for signing in Quebec.
“I’ve had plenty of time to play with [Maas] when we were in Ottawa — he was the offensive coordinator there — and my first year in Edmonton in 2019, we were one game away from the Grey Cup. He kind of got the can on that one, which seemed a little bit bizarre,” the receiver recalled.
“I saw that he was getting the head job there, getting another opportunity to show what he could do and he’s been a great coach. He’s a good play caller, someone that has a lot of energy and knows how to really get guys motivated.”
Alongside his desire to work with Maas and Fajardo, Ellingson noted that Montreal’s vibrance as a city provided a third reason for the decision, having fallen in love with it during bye-week trips from Ottawa.
While he wouldn’t deny that the Alouettes also provided him with the most lucrative financial package, he insisted that the three non-monetary reasons were more impactful.
“[The money] always plays a factor but it’s not the major thing,” Ellingson said. “I mean, there was quite a difference in the offering there which does play a part because your livelihood as a player is I get to play football for so long and if the money is a big difference then that’s gonna make you lean one way.”
The nine-year veteran is looking for a bounce-back campaign after being limited to just eight games in 2022 for Winnipeg, collecting 38 receptions for 598 yards and three touchdowns. He has 587 catches for 8,550 yards and 45 touchdowns in 125 career games with the Tiger-Cats, Redblacks, Elks and Blue Bombers.
In Fajardo and Maas, Ellingson finds colleagues with similar motivations. Fittingly, it has already come at the cost of the Riders.