The Saskatchewan Roughriders’ dropped a bombshell on Rider Nation late Thursday afternoon.
The team announced they’ve released long-time fan favourites in receiver Weston Dressler and defensive end John Chick.
Chick re-joined the Riders prior to the 2013 season, while Dressler returned halfway through 2014 after spending training camp with the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL.
Both players have been with the Riders for their entire CFL careers before being let go. Both had recently signed long-term deals with the team.
Ultimately, it was those deals that would be the end of both players’ time in Saskatchewan.
“Any time you have release veteran players that have been very productive and have been long standing good citizens in the league and with the team, it’s never easy regardless as to why,” said head coach and general manager Chris Jones from his home in South Pittsburg, Tennessee.
“Certainly (the decisions) to release Dressler and Chick are very much tied to salary.”
The timing of their release was no fluke. Both Chick and Dressler were due for a bonus in the next few days.
Jones admits that his goal was not to release both veterans. The new man in charge of the team’s football operations tried to get both players to negotiate new contracts but new deals couldn’t be reached.
Jones also tried to trade the players to get something in return, but says none of the league’s other eight general managers agreed to take that deal.
At that point, Jones knew he had to make the tough decision.
“You’ve got a team to run. It’s not one individual. I don’t think we’ve ever won any championships when you just worry about one or two guys. You have to worry about the complete good of the football team,” said Jones.
Even though it’s highly unlikely at this point, Jones didn’t completely close the door on either player returning later in the off-season should they be able to get a deal done in free-agency.
This is the second big move by the Riders this week after they acquired receiver Maurice Price in a trade with the Ottawa Redblacks. Even though Price came with a large salary himself – though it was believed to be lowered with a new extension – that trade had no effect on the decision to let Dressler go.
“That was totally separate. We just saw the opportunity, Maurice is a good player,” said Jones.
At this point, it’s not clear how Dressler and Chick took the news as Jones didn’t shed much light on their conversation.
“We’ve spoken with their agents. I’m sure it will be a situation with them where it’s never easy to leave somewhere, especially when you’re as connected as they are,” said Jones.
Both players are now free-agents and can sign with any organization.
It appears the Riders are moving quickly to replace Chick. Farhan Lalji of TSN is reporting the Riders have signed former Calgary Stampeder and Ottawa Redblack defensive end Shawn Lemon.
You can listen to Jones explain his decision with the full audio of the media conference call.