Durant agrees to new contract with Roughriders

Darian Durant throws a pass against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. (Rick Elvin/CP)

After having suffered season-ending injuries the last two years, Darian Durant took another hit for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Durant gave the Roughriders a discount when he signed a new one-year deal with the club Tuesday. He was scheduled to earn roughly $500,000 in 2016, the final year of a contact he signed after leading Saskatchewan to the 2013 Grey Cup.

Durant agreed to one season at less money to give new head coach/GM Chris Jones more cap flexibility following Saskatchewan’s league-worst 3-15 record last season.

"Football is the ultimate team sport and I can’t get it done by myself, no one can," Durant said. "The better personnel we can have around myself and the team the better our chances (for) success."

Durant will reportedly earn about $450,000 this season. Jones wouldn’t divulge financial figures but called Durant’s pay cut "significant."

"I know it will help us be able to get another player," he said. "It’s never a real comfortable thing to do, ask a guy to take a pay cut.

"But long-term success depends on being able to put together a very solid competitive roster and in order to do that you’ve got to be able to spread the wealth."

Durant feels the new deal works for him as well.

"This gives me an opportunity to see the direction we’re going," he said. "It just puts me in a position to control my own future."

Jones said he’s been talking to Durant about a new deal since December and even went to Atlanta — where Durant lives in the off-season — to discuss the matter face to face.

"It meant a lot," Durant said. "It helped me understand more about the direction he wanted to go in.

"Actually, I was kind of expecting it going into the off-season, we just had to make sure we were at a point where it made sense for both sides to renegotiate and it did. A lot of that had to do with that meeting I had with Chris Jones and him reassuring me I was his guy … at the end of the day it wasn’t that tough a decision."

Durant, who turns 34 in August, has suffered consecutive season-ending injuries. He suffered a torn tendon in his right elbow in September 2014 before rupturing his left Achilles tendon in Saskatchewan’s ’15 season opener.

Durant said he’s recovering nicely from the Achilles injury.

"I’m pretty much doing everything I need to do (in training)," he said. "I’m running straight ahead full speed.

"I’m still under control a little bit with some of my cuts and things like that but on my dropbacks, my rollouts, running, I’m full go."

Durant, who played collegiately at the University of North Carolina, is third in Riders history in passing yards (24,668) and TDs (135). Jones said a healthy Durant is important this season for Saskatchewan.

"I’ve gone against Darian Durant a lot of years," said Jones, a former defensive co-ordinator with Montreal, Calgary and Toronto before leading Edmonton to a Grey Cup last season. "He’s a very tough competitor and when he walks on the football team he makes everybody better."

Durant’s deal comes less than a week after slotback Weston Dressler and defensive lineman John Chick — both fan favourites in Regina — were released after failing to reach restructured deals.

"When you see something like that it puts the business side of things in perspective," Durant said. "All of us who choose to play this game, it’s going to happen to us one day when we get that call … it’s the unfortunate side of the business.

"I’m going to miss Dress, he’s one of my best friends. We shared some good times together and it’s going to be tough but I know he’s going to land in a good spot, be in a good situation because he’s still a great player."

Durant has spent his entire 10-year CFL career with Saskatchewan and has been the starter since 2009. He’s led the Riders to the Grey Cup three times (2009-10, 2013) winning on the third try to give the franchise its first championship on home soil.

Durant was also Saskatchewan’s third quarterback when it won the ’07 Grey Cup.

Last season Ottawa’s Henry Burris, the CFL’s outstanding player, was the lone quarterback to start all 18 regular-season games. So finding adequate backups to Durant is also important to Jones.

"We’re on a pretty quick plan to make sure we’ve got a No. 2 and No. 3 in place," he said.