BY: RODPEDERSEN.COM STAFF
We here at Out of the Tunnel were ready to cruise into the beginning of next weekend’s training camps and the dawn of the 2018 season in this week's column. The entire CFL is buzzing with training camps only 7 days away!
Then, out of the blue (pun intended), Darian Durant announced his retirement on his website on Friday. It was shocking for many reasons: 1) it was just a few weeks before training camp opens, 2) there were no hints or rumours of his impending retirement, 3) he is seemingly healthy and on a team ready for a run, and 4) what has the fans across the league buzzing, was that he received a $70,000 bonus when he inked a deal with Winnipeg on January 20th.
This looks bad on all fronts. On the Bombers side, why give out such a huge signing bonus for an aging, oft-injured quarterback whose best days are well behind him? A $70,000 bonus is an incredible amount considering it’s almost 20 percent of his reported $400,000 deal with the Alouettes last season. That is a considerable risk.
On Durant’s side, to accept that money three months ago and then retire isn’t great either. Even if what Durant said on his twitter account is true - that his agent called Bomber general manager Kyle Walters a month ago saying he would retire - is even worse.
The weird thing is that even though this smells bad, none of it is wrong. Within the current CFL Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), all of this is above board.
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This too doesn’t feel right, but it’s still within a team’s rights within the current CBA.
The bonus structure is the lifeblood but also one of the biggest problems with the current CBA (that, and the issue of players wanting to head to the NFL who are still under CFL contracts and the side deals that occur around them).
CFL contracts are so incredibly bonus heavy that sometimes the actual salaries become secondary.
We are not talking about performance bonuses like being named an all-star, hitting stat goals or even playing in a certain amount of games. These are simple, usually for minimal money, and common across all sports.
The big numbers involving some signing and roster bonuses (a bonus for just being on a roster through the off-season) is disconcerting and is something some pro sports has addressed and regulated.
The NHL allows a maximum bonus of 10 per cent of a player’s salary. Signing bonuses are rare in the NBA because the contracts are guaranteed, and bonuses are restricted to a maximum of 10 or 15 per cent. All contracts are guaranteed in both leagues.
Major League Baseball is signing bonus-heavy but they are allowed to spread the bonuses over the length of the contract to reduce the effect on their luxury tax.
The NFL is still signing bonus-heavy. Teams promise a large sum up front to entice a player to sign but the contracts are low in the front end of the contract and high on the back end. If a player’s skill begins to wane, he gets released as contracts are not guaranteed in the NFL.
So, a simple solution would be to keep CFL signing bonuses to 10 or 15 per cent of a player’s contract. The same could be said for the roster bonuses as well.
Another change would be how the salary cap is calculated. It’s almost too simple in the CFL. The current cap is the amount paid to players during a calendar year (January 1st to December 31st). That’s it. If a team keeps the amount paid out to under $5.2-million in 2018, there are no repercussions.
This is a CBA that needs a complete overhaul and it’s going to be a long season for CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie which could make or break his reign at the head of the league.
Some players don’t receive any money during the off-season and this is their first cheque of the year and the next won’t come until week one of the regular season.
This was apparent in 2014. Players and the CFL Board of Governors were mired in negotiating the current CBA and there were hints of a lockout. If there was a lockout, contracts would not be honoured and no bonuses would be paid out.
The league had the players by the throat. So many were waiting for that first cheque and if the majority voted no to the governor’s proposal, then no money. The majority voted yes and probably would have voted yes to almost anything for that first cheque.
As far as Durant's legacy in Saskatchewan goes, that's unquestioned.
No one has done more for the franchise in the past decade-or-so since Darian assumed the role of starting quarterback full-time in 2009. He led the team to three Grey Cups (2009, 2010, 2013) and achieved the top of the mountain in the 2013 CFL championship game. He would've counted two Grey Cup victories as a starting quarterback but he had to painfully watch from the sidelines in 2009 in Calgary as the special teams unit botched the ending.
Durant's name is all over the franchise record book in the all-time stats: Playoff Completion Pct (65.6%, #1), Playoff Efficiency Rating (116.6, #1), Passing Yards Career (2nd), Passing Yards Season (3rd), Pass Attempts Career (2nd), Pass Attempts Season (2nd), Pass Completions Career (2nd), Pass Completions Season (3rd) and Passing Touchdowns Career (3rd).
He's also a 2-time All Star.
Durant's time in Saskatchewan was cut to 11 seasons after the 2017 trade to Montreal so he was unable to continue his assault on Ron Lancaster's franchise records which Ronnie set over 16 seasons.
Does Durant go down as the Greatest Roughrider Ever?
It says here that honour still belongs to The Little General.
But Darian's place in Rider lore has been cemented. The hard feelings over the controversial trade to the Alouettes seem to be behind both the player, and the franchise. Darian said as much in Friday's interview on the SportsCage, as the South Carolina product said he plans to spend plenty of time in the Queen City. In fact, he still owns a home here.
The classy tribute the Riders showed on the SaskTel Maxtron prior to last year's October 28 game versus Montreal was a testament to how the franchise feels about one of their all-time greats.
Enjoy retirement Doubles. You've earned it.
The best thing about the book, it has a heavy Saskatchewan flavour!
Don’t let the title scare you (or the text-book feel to it), but Coaching Canadian Football by Football Canada with Regina’s Ryan Hall is a true gem!
For a fan, it will show you everything from what Canadian defensive coverages look like, to how special teams work, to coaching philosophies and even scouting.
The book is courtesy of Football Canada but Ryan Hall is the brainchild and engine behind putting this book together.
It’s a who’s who of Canadian coaching: Greg Marshall (defensive play calling), Tom Sargeant (building a CJFL program), Marcel Bellefeuille (watching game film), Jim Barker (evaluating performance) and so many more.
Next week…football! Real football!