There is little doubt that the talk of the CFL these past few weeks have revolved around Darian Durant’s contract situation with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. With heated debates raging across the country of whether to keep – or set loose, the franchise’s unquestioned leader of the past eight years, it can get easy to lose perspective. That is why this fan of the game will try to put forth a balanced approach on who Durant is, what he deserves, and what makes sense for his team.
Darian Durant’s Contract Situation
Durant the Player
Let’s be honest – Durant is an absolute warrior who puts everything on the line from snap to whistle. The man has put his body, mind, and soul into the team and the fan base since he arrived back in 2006. Durant is a local hero and has done more than his share to put the Riders on the map with three Grey Cup appearances as a starter, culminating with a win in 2013. To go one step further for those who may question his role on that stacked team, look no further than the postseason game against the BC Lions. If ever you needed an example of Durant’s tremendous will to win, that game was it. Durant has shown skill as a passer, dazzled as a runner, and been embraced as a leader.
Yet Durant is not the young “run n’ gunner” that he used to be. Age and injury have started to creep in and erode some of his physical talents. With the start of this decline some of the mistakes in his game (inaccuracy, turnovers, etc) are more glaring and not easily hidden by his physical prowess. Age happens to every player (Henry Burris and Tom Brady excluded) and is one of the most unfair aspects of pro sports, there is always someone younger and just as talented waiting in the wings.
With all that said, the debate on Durant can be viewed in one of two ways: What makes sense for the team, or what is fair.
What is Fair
In a fair world, Durant has earned a top market contract for his previous accomplishments and legacy with the team. The 34-year-old passer still has moments where he looks like a elite talent with some great deep balls and his trademark escapability. Durant could go to five of the nine teams in the CFL and either improve or maintain their level of quarterback play, which isn’t something to take lightly. There is also no question that should Durant hit the market he would be one of the best options available, so why would the Riders ever think of looking elsewhere while they still have the chance to nail him down with an offer?
What is Best for the Team
If one is to view the Durant contract situation through the eyes of the team, the passer represents a massive problem. Durant is too good to get rid of without rioting in the streets and mass criticism, but also he wasn’t able to carry his team to more than 4 wins (the Rider’s 5th win was courtesy of Mitchell Gale). With a big payday being asked for by Durant (and deservedly so) and a team that has a multitude of holes to fill, what can be done in this situation?
It is no doubt that general manager/head coach Chris Jones, has a vision for this team both with and without Durant. The vision with him is one where he is surrounded by enough talent to make the Riders a contender this year. Yet this can only happen if there is enough money available to afford the talent that Jones believes is necessary. See where the hesitation to pay Durant a bounty comes from? If Saskatchewan can’t field a competitive team with the money that Durant wants, then it would be foolish to pay him and have another poor team with a good quarterback. In that situation, the Riders could use the money to build up the rest of the team and roll the dice on a younger/cheaper option and play for the future.
Where do fans go from here?
I’ll conclude these rambling thoughts with a final question: Can Jones be trusted? If he is, then fans know he has a plan for this team and that he has spent every waking minute stressing over how to, and how not to, build this team with Durant. What happens will be the result of Jones making a calculated gamble for the franchise, Durant or no. If you don’t trust Jones, then your best hope is that he gets lucky or gets run out of town because he has at least one more year of grace from management. It’s not fun or fair, but it is ultimately the business of football.