January 13, 2017

Job Opening: Who will be the Riders’ next QB?


REGINA — For the first time in over a decade, the door is open for a new quarterback in Riderville.

The Riders and Alouettes shook up the CFL landscape on Friday when Darian Durant was traded to Montreal in exchange for a pair of draft picks. And while all eyes will be on the Als, who have a month to sign the veteran quarterback before he becomes a free agent, there is suddenly a significant job opening in Riderville.

Let the speculation begin.

» Bio: Darian Durant
» Alouettes acquire the rights to Durant
» View 2017 free agent tracker

Hiring from within?

Five internal candidates could be in the discussion including three under the age of 25 (Bryan Bennett, Brandon Bridge and Jake Waters). G.J. Kinne and Mitchell Gale are other options, although Gale, who played the most aside from Durant in 2016, is a pending free agent.

Jones had a full season to the evaluate quarterback talent on his roster, outside of Durant and the recently-acquired Bennett, and should have a clear idea of who might be ready to fit the bill.

“We’ve got three very qualified guys that played behind Darian last season,” Jones told Riderville.com.

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

Mitchell Gale helped the Riders win two games during the 2017 season (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

Perhaps more likely, Jones could look outside of the organization.

Matt Nichols is, aside from Durant, the biggest name that could become available on Feb. 14 as he remains without a new contract from the Bombers. He’s in his prime and coming off a career year but may not be a fit considering his past with Jones, who traded Nichols back in 2015 in favour of the up-and-coming James Franklin.

Kevin Glenn might be the most reasonable candidate for the Riders, and he’s available now. Glenn played for Saskatchewan in the past and was let go by the Bombers just last week to get an advanced look at free agency.

Despite his age, the 37-year-old Glenn is still a capable CFL starter and could afford Jones some more time to find a long-term answer.

Talking trade

Speaking of James Franklin, the 25-year-old has to be an appealing option for Jones as the potential future of the Riders — if not now then some time down the road.

Franklin is widely considered the top quarterback prospect in the game right now and it was Jones who discovered and helped develop Franklin two seasons ago in Edmonton.

The problem: Franklin is under contract throughout the 2017 season and would have to be acquired via trade. The Eskimos may not be so willing to deal a blue chip prospect to a division rival, at least not without a significant return.

David Chidley/CFL.ca

James Franklin would be a popular choice among fans to replace Durant (David Chidley/CFL.ca)

Who else could be had via trade? Drew Tate, while seemingly content as a backup, has been a starter in the past and has the ability to lead a football team. Ricky Ray, should he return for the 2017 season, could be a short-term solution and could be available from the Argos.

Jeremiah Masoli has shown potential as a starter, but would Kent Austin and the Ticats give up their number one insurance policy? And finally, Travis Lulay showed at times last season he can still play and the former Most Outstanding Player is only 33 years old.

Diamond in the rough

Outside of the big names in free agency, there are others that could make an impact.

Jeff Mathews is 25 and appears to have a high ceiling. He hasn’t gotten a crack in Hamilton as he sits behind Zach Collaros and Jeremiah Masoli on the depth chart but could be a capable starter.

Dan LeFevour showed a little spark in his comeback with the Argos last season, guiding them to an upset win over the Ticats as he filled in for the injured Ricky Ray.

Johany Jutras/CFL.ca

Darian Durant’s tenure with the Riders has ended after 11 seasons (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

And finally, Danny O’Brien has been highly-regarded in Ottawa, although he hasn’t been able to work his way up the depth chart in the nation’s capital.

Whatever happens, there should be no panic from Jones’ front office staff in Regina. This scenario won’t be a popular one among Riders fans but it’s long been anticipated.

Whether Durant was to return or not, the emphasis would have been on finding the quarterback of the future in Saskatchewan. That part doesn’t change for Chris Jones.