The deal Saskatchewan Roughriders fans have been waiting for is done.
The team announced on Wednesday that quarterback Darian Durant has agreed to a new one-year deal for the 2016 season.
“I knew when I signed this deal back in 2014 that coming into the last year it was a high cap number. When Chris Jones approached me, it was just a situation we had an opportunity to get better all-around as a team,” Durant told reporters on Wednesday. “I didn’t want to be the guy to hold anything back from that. If it makes sense to myself and it helps out the organization, then why not have the best team around me?”
“I DIDN’T WANT TO BE THE GUY TO HOLD ANYTHING BACK FROM THAT. IF IT MAKES SENSE TO MYSELF AND IT HELPS OUT THE ORGANIZATION, THEN WHY NOT HAVE THE BEST TEAM AROUND ME?”
Details of the contract were not released, but Kirk Penton of the Winnipeg Sun is reporting the deal is for somewhere in the neighbourhood of $450,000 for one year.
Durant had originally signed a three-year extension prior to the 2014 season.
Through 98 career starts, the 33-year-old has racked up 24,688 yards passing for 135 touchdowns. The Riders have won 54 times with Durant under centre.
During his conference call with reporters, Durant did admit that this contract was more incentive-laden than his previous contracts.
Those incentives came into play because of back-to-back season ending injuries Halfway through 2014, the North Carolina native injured his throwing elbow and never returned. Then, not even one full half into his return at the start of 2015, Durant tore his Achilles tendon, once again ending his season.
Head coach and general manager Chris Jones actually began talks with Durant soon after he got the job.
Days later, Jones drove from Tennessee to Atlanta, to visit with Durant in person to discuss not only his contract but his vision for the team. The move impressed Durant.
“It meant a lot. He hadn’t been home one day and he hopped in a car and drove to Atlanta,” he said.
“You can see his passion. It helped me understand more about the direction he wanted to go in.”
“YOU CAN SEE HIS PASSION. IT HELPED ME UNDERSTAND MORE ABOUT THE DIRECTION HE WANTED TO GO IN.”
Normally when a player agrees to a new restructured contract, they end up getting an extra year or two added to the deal. That was the case just a few weeks ago when the Riders reached a new deal with the recently acquired Maurice Price.
At this point in his career, Durant felt the one year deal was the best option for him.
“That gives us a little bit more cap flexibility this year and it also gives me a chance to evaluate things after the season,” Durant explained.
He clarified that doesn’t mean he wants to test free agency in 2017.
“No, not at all. This gives me an opportunity to see the direction that we’re going. It puts the Riders in a good cap position. It has nothing to do with my wanting to test free agency or anything like that. It just puts me in a position to control my own future.”
The deal is the latest move by Jones to try and get the team’s salary cap in order.
Just last week, the team released both Weston Dressler and John Chick because of salary considerations.
“When you see something like that, it just puts the business side into perspective. All of us who choose to play this game – it’s going to happen to us one day. When we get that call, it’s sad that our time is done. Very few guys are able to walk out on their own terms,” said Durant.
“You realize it can be you at one point.”
Jones classified the cut in Durant’s pay as a “significant” one, as it would allow the team to add another player to the roster.
“We’re dealing with the CFL salary cap, not the NFL salary cap,” said Jones.
“So, we’ve got to get things to where we can put an entire football team together.”
With the money out of the way, the only question that remains is how Durant actually perform on the field after two major injuries.
For his part, number four says he feels ready to go.
“I’m pretty much doing everything I need to do. I’m running straight ahead full speed. I’m still under control on my cuts and things like that. But, all my drop backs, roll outs, running, I’m full go,” he said.
“Just getting used to going full speed with the cuts and everything will be fine after that.”
You can listen to the full news conference with Durant here.