It came right down to the wire with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Duke Williams. After spending a pair of seasons in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills, Williams made his return to the CFL in 2021 with the Roughriders where he was immediately productive. In just four games, he had 17 receptions for 285 yards and a touchdown as well as a couple of key recoveries on onside kicks at the end of the season.
On Saturday, the Roughriders made it official, Williams will be back in the green and white in 2022. According to Justin Dunk, the contract won’t be cheap, but Williams left tens of thousands of dollars on the table to be back in Saskatchewan. While there were offers of up to $300,000 on the table, he opted to accept $260,000 in hard money from the Riders to stick around on a one-year deal.
There was speculation that Williams could opt to re-join his former team in the Edmonton Elks, especially after Chris Jones was brought back into the fold. While there was likely serious interest from both parties, Williams decided that his best chance of lifting a Grey Cup would be in Saskatchewan.
When Williams left the CFL for a crack at the NFL, he left as one of the league’s best players. His career in Canada has been beyond impressive, and in just 35 games, he has 2,579 yards on 151 receptions. Perhaps even more impressive than the yardage is his touchdown numbers. All the way up at 16, Williams is always a threat to take it to the house.
In 2021, the Roughriders struggled to push the ball down the field and complete deep passes, but after bringing in Williams towards the end of the season, this issue seemed to become less prevalent. Having him back for another season ensured that Cody Fajardo will have a deep threat that consistently makes plays and can be the best receiver in the CFL.
This contract has come with a hefty price tag for the Roughriders and it could handcuff them down the line as they look to build their depth, but securing a top-three receiver in the league was never going to be cheap. They got it done, and they have made it clear that they intend to compete in their home Grey Cup this season even if they have been relatively quiet so far.
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