A wave of change is expected to sweep through the Canadian Football League (CFL) tomorrow, especially in Saskatchewan.
Free agency in the league opens up on Tuesday. After a 6-12 record in 2022 and a pair of hot seats occupied by Roughriders General Manager Jeremy O’Day and Head Coach Craig Dickenson, there is an urgency for a reversal of fortunate in 2023.
During the off-season, the defence has been the focus for the Riders football operations. Anthony Lanier , Pete Robertson, Larry Dean, Nick Marshall, Rolan Milligan and Jeremy Clark have all agreed to new contracts this winter with Saskatchewan and will be counted on to form the nucleus of the green and white defence.
There is expected to be plenty changes with Saskatchewan’s offence. The first major move was made earlier this year was Kelly Jeffrey being moved up to offensive coordinator after spending the season as the team’s running backs coach in 2022. One significant offensive signing this off-season for the Roughriders was Running Back Jamal Morrow.
Here are the players from the 2022 Saskatchewan Roughriders roster who are set to become free agents on Tuesday.
After three seasons in Saskatchewan, it looks like Fajardo will be looking for a new home in 2023.
In 2019, the quarterback took over from Zach Collaros after he was injured in the season opener. Fajardo would go on to assume the starter’s role and rattled off his best season as a member of the green and white, he ended the year with 4,302 passing yards, 611 rushing yards and 18 touchdown passes and 10 touchdown runs.
Saskatchewan ended the season with a 13-5 record and a first place finish in the Western Division but were defeated by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the 2019 Western Final.
After the 2020 season was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic. Fajardo returned to Saskatchewan to be the team’s number one quarterback in 2021. He led the Riders to a second-place finish in the West and a playoff victory against the Calgary Stampeders. Fajardo’s stats were slightly down across the board in his second season as starter. He had 2,970 passing yards, with eleven passing touchdowns and four rushing touchdowns.
Last season, like most of the Roughrider organization was one Fajardo would like to forget. He averaged less than 200 passing yards. Injuries also plagued the quarterback. He suffered a knee injury at the beginning of the season that hampered him throughout the year. The weapons around Fajardo also did not have the season they were looking for. The offensive line allowed a league high 77 sacks. Saskatchewan’s receiving core was also unable to stay healthy throughout the season with “Duke” Williams, Shaq Evans, and Kyran Moore all battling long-term injuries.
Fajardo and Trevor Harris are the top starting quarterbacking options available in free agency.
It’s been reported Fajardo will sign a two-year deal with the Montreal Alouettes.
There aren’t too many fullbacks on the free agent market, but Tuck should find himself a home with his ability to play on both offence and special teams. The nine-year veteran spent time with Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal before joining Saskatchewan prior to the 2022 season.
Like the rest of the receiving core, injuries were the main story for Williams in 2022. He was limited to eight games with 480 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He only surpassed the 100-yard receiving mark in one contest (WK 3 @ Montreal). The receiver joined Saskatchewan late in the 2021 season after a stint in the NFL.
It’s been reported Williams will sign with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
2022 was another tough season for Evans. He suffered a foot injury in June that kept him sidelined until the beginning of September. The former UCLA Bruin was limited to ten games last season with 32 receptions, 487 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
It’s been reported Evans will sign with the Ottawa REDBLACKS.
It was a late start to the season for Moore in 2022 as he was recovering from a foot injury that he suffered in October of 2021. He finished up the season with 36 catches and 296 receiving yards and no touchdowns.
It’s been reported Moore will sign with the Edmonton Elks.
In his third season with Saskatchewan, McInnis enjoyed his best season. In 13 games, he had 33 catches for 364 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns. His best game came on August 19 against the BC Lions where he eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark for the first time in his career.
Riders head coach Craig Dickenson said the door hasn’t been closed on Clark returning to the Riders in 2023, but he added the team will be exploring their options. Last season, the Riders longtime centre suffered a serious injury when he broke his fibula in early June that forced him out of the lineup until the end of September. Clark has been a member of the Riders since the 2012 season.
The left tackle returned to the Roughrider lineup in 2022 after missing the 2021 season with an injury. Vaughn was only able to take part in ten games last year.
It’s been reported Vaughn will sign with the Ottawa REDBLACKS
Josiah St. John
The 39-year old indicated at the end of last season that he would be returning in 2023. Hughes is fifth on the CFL’s list for all-time sack leaders with 136. He is 3.5 sacks behind James Parker for fourth spot and he trails former Rider legend, Bobby Jurasin by six sacks for third spot.
Last season, Hughes had four sacks in 12 games with Saskatchewan.
The biggest acquisition for the Roughriders last season in free agency, the linebacker met the expectations that he was met with when he signed with Saskatchewan as he set a new franchise record for tackles with 120. He was the team’s nominee for both Most Outstanding Player and Most Outstanding Defensive Player. Sankey joined the Riders after spending one season with Calgary.
Gary Johnson Jr
It was a scary ending for Edem last season. He was taken to hospital for precautionary reasons after a scary collision with Calgary running back, Dedrick Mills. He has spent the last five seasons with the Roughriders. Prior to joining Saskatchewan, Edem was with Montreal, BC and Hamilton.