CFL Pass

O'Day expects Moncrief to land NFL opportunity

Jeremy O’Day, the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ vice-president of football operations and general manager, understands the allure of the NFL for some CFL players.

“You have to feel happy about the players getting an opportunity to really take care of their family and an opportunity to play in the NFL,” O’Day said Tuesday from The Blue Mountains, Ont., site of the CFL’s annual winter meetings.

“It’s also a reason why a lot of guys come up to Canada to play — the opportunity to play well and then go back. It just seems there are a greater number of our guys going back (to the NFL) than ever before.”

O’Day feels that NFL opportunities can help CFL teams in terms of recruiting American players.

“This time of year is when everybody gets a little sad when they lose their favourite players or an all-star player who goes back to give the NFL another shot,” O’Day said. “It’s a unique situation, but it’s good and bad that guys are getting those opportunities.

“It’s good for the players and the league. It’s also tough on the teams because you have to replace them. It’s also something that you have to be prepared for.”

The Riders are prepared to move on without outside linebacker Derrick Moncrief. Moncrief has worked out with eight NFL teams and turned down tryouts from seven others — an indication of serious interest in the 2019 CFL all-star, who is eligible to file for free agency on Feb. 11.

“Derrick is likely going to get an NFL opportunity that he will explore,” O’Day said. “He has already had quite a few workouts this off-season. We anticipate that he will get an opportunity with the NFL.”

Moncrief, 26, earned the opportunity after a stellar third season with the Riders. He started 17 regular-season games in 2019, recording career highs in defensive tackles (69), special-teams tackles (four), sacks (four) and interceptions (three).

Receiver Shaq Evans, one of five Riders named to the CFL’s 2019 all-star team, has also drawn NFL interest. Evans, a pending free agent, led the Riders in receiving yards (1,334) on 72 catches, five of which went for touchdowns. The 29-year-old Evans has reportedly worked out with the NFL’s Washington Redskins.

“If we weren’t interested in bringing Shaq back, there might be problems with me not doing my job,” O’Day said with a chuckle. “Obviously, Shaq was a big part of what we did last year. He was a very good player for us and he has expressed an interest that he wants to be back.

“We’re just going through those discussions with him now whether we will be able to get a contract worked out. We really feel that Saskatchewan is a great place for him. Shaq and (quarterback) Cody Fajardo established a good relationship and we would definitely like for him to be part of it down the road.”

Moncrief and Evans were among 32 Riders who were eligible to file for free agency after the 2019 season. O’Day has whittled that list down to 26 pending free agents through contract extensions.

“We have multiple contract offers out to players and we will continue to plug through those,” O’Day said. “Some of the players on there have had some NFL workouts and we obviously had to let them explore the NFL opportunities that they had. Once that happens, they get back to you and let us know if they want to start working on a contract. We work through those if we can.”

A twist to free agency in 2020 is the creation of a window whereby pending free agents can reportedly take their current team’s offer and shop it around in the league in advance of the free-agent deadline. The offers, however, can be revoked the day before the free-agent deadline. O’Day is expecting further details on the rule change to be addressed during the winter meetings.

“Whether there is a huge difference on how it has been in the past is debatable,” O’Day said. “I’m more interested in seeing how the process will take place and what you’re allowed to and not allowed to do.”


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