Extension ‘not on the radar’ for Riders’ QB Trevor Harris entering final year of contract

Photo courtesy: Electric Umbrella/Liam Richards/Saskatchewan Roughriders

Trevor Harris has had no talks to extend his stay in Regina entering the final year of his contract with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

“If we get to the middle of the season and we think it’s best for both sides to do an extension that way we don’t have to worry about going into a mess in the offseason, maybe we re-visit that,” the 37-year-old quarterback told reporters on Thursday. “But it’s not something that’s on my radar and I don’t think it’s anything on their radar currently.”

Harris renegotiated the final year of his deal this offseason, providing the team with a small amount of salary cap space in exchange for some tax relief. He is set to earn up to $500,300 in 2024 but was not provided any additional long-term security after missing the majority of last season with a major injury.

The Riders’ prized free-agent addition, Harris started just five games for his new franchise in 2023 before suffering a tibial plateau fracture. The break required surgery and cost him the remainder of the season, as Saskatchewan finished 6-12 while missing the playoffs for a second consecutive year.

Despite rumours that he could have returned for the postseason, Harris acknowledged that he would have only been at roughly 70 percent for a hypothetical West Final return. His recovery is ahead of schedule, however, and he’ll be full-go for training camp, with maintenance work on the injury serving as the primary focus since December.

Though he’s previously gone on record as wanting to play into his forties, the 11-year CFL veteran admits he is now taking a more cautious approach.

“I think that’s still an attainable goal but it’s one of those things where I’m just going to be one year at a time. Listen to my body, listen to my mind, listen to my family, and kind of just go from there,” Harris said.

“I think that serious injuries can change things because there have been times early in this offseason where I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do it.’ Right around Christmas time is when I was like, ‘Okay, I think we can do this.'”

The Riders have undergone significant changes this offseason, parting ways with head coach Craig Dickenson and bringing in young up-and-comer Corey Mace. The team has been all in on Harris as the focal point of a new offensive system under play-caller Marc Mueller, shoring up the offensive line with the addition of right tackle Jermarcus Hardrick and upgrading the running game with ‘workhorse’ A.J. Ouellette.

Still, the organization has remained realistic about what stage of his career their franchise quarterback is in, prioritizing a potential succession plan beyond this year. Every new season carries questions for Harris as to why he should continue, something he explores in-depth with his mental performance coach.

“Every offseason, we go through a ‘Why do you play’ (exercise). Why am I still playing? I think a lot of those times, there’s a curiosity to find a ceiling,” he explained.

“If you guys have ever seen Ted Lasso, one of the famous scenes he has is, ‘Be curious, not judgmental.’ Stop judging yourself and the ‘be curious’ part is really the part that I’m speaking about — curious to see what the ceiling is, curious to see how high you can take this thing, curious to see what you can do with the talents and abilities you’ve been given.”

“If you have a superficial motivation, it’s going to burn out pretty quickly. To me, the slow-burning candle is the love of my teammates, my faith, and then the curiosity to see how high I can reach the ceiling with the talents and abilities that God has given.”

Harris has thrown for 29,884 yards, 160 touchdowns and 75 interceptions over 166 career CFL games with Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton, Montreal, and now Saskatchewan. His first season in green and white resulted in a 3-2 record as a starter, with just 1,274 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions prior to the injury.

The native of Waldo, Oh. has now added Rider Nation to his list of motivations for 2024, describing last year’s collapse as “painful” for the CFL’s most passionate fan base.

“I want them to wear Roughrider gear and be stinking proud of it, no matter what province they’re in. I want them to be able to wear that Roughrider green and white and be able to walk around town and know that their team is out there doing things on the field,” Harris said.

“I took it very personal last year what happened. It’s been a kind of a personal mindset this offseason in terms of I’m not going to let that happen again.”

With new leadership in the building, he believes that next season will be a “fresh start” for the organization. How much of that new era he’ll be at the helm for remains to be seen, but Harris is unbothered by his lack of a contract past this season.

“Those things will play itself out. Ultimately, I always tell people if they’re working on extensions, we all sign one-year contracts,” he insisted.

“If you outplay your contract, then you’re going to be making less than what you’re worth. If you underplay your contract, you’re probably going to get released. Ultimately, a team’s gonna make a decision on a guy each and every offseason.”

The Riders will open their 2024 regular season on Saturday, June 8 when they visit the Edmonton Elks at Commonwealth Stadium.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.