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Monday, May 14, 2018

OUT OF THE TUNNEL: OUT OF THE BLUE


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.

1881 Scarth St. Regina, 306-789-0011
How many times have we seen teams release players days, even hours, before their roster bonus kicks in? This is commonplace. It even happened to Durant in January when the Alouettes released him days before being eligible for a roster bonus of $150,000.

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.
Another bonus note: one of the bonuses many players look forward to the most is the report-to-play bonus they receive when they check in and pass their physical at training camp.

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.

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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.
It’s been a while since Out of the Tunnel has offered some suggested reading, but there is a book out right now that will help coaches, potential coaches and fans get more insight on not just how a play happens, but also the why, player development, scouting and so much more.

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!

(RodPedersen.com Staff)

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I remember a bunch of Bum Bomber fans coming on this blog site when the Riders traded for a player, Riders paid his January bonus only for them to retire and keep the money. They all pointed out how Jones was fleeced and unqualified as a GM in his first year.

Walters has been a GM for how long and gets burned with a 70k signing bonus that counts against the cap. 70k in salary cap space is the difference between signing a player in their prime, like Duron Carter or Naaman Roosevely, and a player on his last treads, like Adarius Bowman.

Anonymous said...

Great info, but looking forward, moving forward to the beginning of Roughriders training camp. This Winnipeg Blue Bombers brouhaha Darian Durant retirement announcement totally irrelevant here in Saskatchewan as this is a Blue Bombers organizational problem, not a Saskatchewan Roughriders problem. Durant retired now in Winnipeg as a Blue Blumber... poor sap. Let the new season begin, should be a good one for the Riders and fans, Go Roughriders! Bring home that Grey Cup.

Tim said...

I think the greatest Roughrider ever is George Reed, by a fair margin. Lancaster second.

Anonymous said...

It's also common in CFL contract negotiations to have a future bonus be awarded as a hand shake deal by a team in order to cover past gaps in pay. Specifically, a player with a large salary will be asked to take a little less in order to free up some salary cap space. There is a verbal agreement that this will be "made up" in the next contracts bonus.

Of course this sucks for the player, but if he is trying to be a "team guy" and add a free agent offensive lineman or something, it's hard to say no. It's also a violation of the CBA, but teams have the players over a barrel and there is not much in the way of push back from the union.

I don't know what the situation is/was with Durant, but I do know that there are lots of things that happen behind the scenes that fans and media don't necessarily know about.

Anonymous said...

Random thoughts:

George Reed is the unquestioned greatest Rider to ever play.

Darian's legacy has taken a hit the way he has handled his retirement announcement.

He is second in most franchise records nudging past Austin in his 11 year. Austin posted his numbers in seven seasons.

Talk of retiring #4 is ludicrous.

The report and pass bonus barely exists anymore.



Anonymous said...

Re: Austin vs. Durant - you fail to consider that of Darians 11 seasons as a Rider 2.5 seasons were as a backup (2006-2008, in 08 he started 5 or 6 games), and 1.5 on the injured list in the 2014-15 seasons. So its not really a clean 11 to 7 ratio.

Anonymous said...

Pointless to whine about the bonus system in the CFL. Its up to the player's union and management to sort out, if they should be so inclined.

Anonymous said...

You want to sign a player right now to lock him in. He wants to wait and check out other situations. You offer signing bonus to entice and lock him up. That simple. DD is still BB property. That is what they bought. It's on them.

Anonymous said...

Dont forget, Kent Austin #5 is a revered Sask Football God.

In Jones We Trust

Chris Duda said...

The biggest reason for such high bonuses to American players is for tax purposes. It benefits both the team and the player. The team pays the player a bonus less than what a salary would be but the player walks away with more after-tax dollars. Surprised Treaudope hasn't tried to close this tax loophole too! Doesn't apply to Canadian players though.

Anonymous said...

In reality Darian is out $80.000. Montreal cut him the day before a bonus of $150,000 was due. So he recouped $70,000 from Winnipeg. It's a two way street.

Anonymous said...

technically Austin didn't become full time starter until have way through his third season. injuries can't be used as an excuse. Austin still excelled when the teams were crap in early 90's. Durant was awful in 2011 and 2016.

Anonymous said...

That’s right Winnipeg can go cry to Montreal for the money, which is Durant right to have regardless, he just decided to retire, that’s a chance the bombers took.

Anonymous said...

One last W for Durant vs Bombers.
LF

Anonymous said...

Cubs lose to the braves 6-5 today so everybody knows.