Corey Chamblin knows who his starting quarterback will be for the next little while.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders signed veteran Darian Durant to a multi-year extension Wednesday after leading the club to just its fourth Grey Cup title last year.
Knowing he has the 31-year-old Durant for the long-term — reportedly through the 2016 season — is a big relief for Chamblin, named the CFL’s coach of the year following Saskatchewan’s Grey Cup championship.
“In order to win championships you need to have a quarterback and to win multiple championships you have to have a quarterback who believes in the head coach and I think that’s what we have,” Chamblin said during a news conference announcing Durant’s extension. “It’s huge to have that security.
“That’s the biggest security blanket knowing who’s going to be under centre for the next few years.”
The five-foot-11, 214-pound Durant, a native of Florence, S.C., had one year left on his previous deal. He’s entering his ninth CFL season, all with Saskatchewan.
“A lot of guys don’t get the opportunity to stay with one franchise their whole career,” Durant said. “It was basically a no-brainer for me to stay a part of this organization.
“It’s the best in the league.”
And there’s certainly continuity at the top as this off-season the Riders have re-signed Durant, Chamblin and general manager Brendan Taman to new extensions. Taman also added the title of vice-president of football operations to his job description
Taman called Durant’s deal “win-win” in that the player receives a fair-market contract that the Riders can afford while the team maintains the nucleus of its roster.
“It wasn’t about taking as much money as he can get, it was about keeping our team together and that tells you all about Darian,” Taman said. “There was a market that was out there that was laid out by other quarterbacks that had signed.
“We worked through it and both parties are happy. I think the key in all this is Darian Durant should be recognized as an elite quarterback in this league, which we are prepared to do from our end and were able to get to an agreement with him on a multi-year extension.”
Exact contract and financial details weren’t divulged but Durant said his new deal doesn’t make him the CFL’s highest-paid player in 2014. It’s generally regarded B.C. Lions quarterback Travis Lulay enjoys that distinction with a reported salary of about $450,000 this year.
Veteran Henry Burris of the expansion Ottawa Renegades is said to have a similar deal if he can stay healthy this season.
While Durant’s deal appears to offer the Riders salary-cap savings in 2014, the burning question remains what the quarterback’s average salary might be over the term of the contract.
But Chamblin believes Durant can be even better moving forward.
“Brendan mentioned him being an elite quarterback, I think Darian has been a very good quarterback,” Chamblin said. “I’m excited to see him become a great quarterback and one that we can talk about for years.”
It’s not the first time Durant has made a commitment to Saskatchewan. In January 2009 he re-signed with the Riders rather than test the free-agent waters.
Durant enjoyed a solid 2013 campaign, passing for 4,154 yards and a league-high 31 TD passes with 12 interceptions. He threw for 550 yards and five TDs with no interceptions in leading Saskatchewan to victory in the West semifinal and final.
And then Durant threw for 245 yards and three TDs against Hamilton in the Grey Cup game at Mosaic Stadium, leading Saskatchewan to a 45-23 victory.
Durant has completed 1,745 of 2,842 passes (61.4 per cent) for 22,711 yards and 125 touchdowns against 87 interceptions over his career. He’s also a two-time Grey Cup champion, having earned his first championship ring in ‘07 as a backup with the Riders.
But Durant’s goal is to become the first starting quarterback in Riders history to lead the club to two Grey Cup titles.
“If you look at the history of this organization the quarterbacks that have won Grey Cups only have one,” he said. “In order for me to separate myself . . . you have to get that second ring and get multiple Grey Cups.
“That’s definitely a motivating factor.”
However, the Riders will definitely sport a different look in 2014. Among the players to leave this off-season are running back Kory Sheets (Oakland, NFL), slotback Weston Dressler (Kansas City, NFL), backup quarterback Drew Willy (Winnipeg, CFL) and defensive tackle Keith Shologan (Ottawa, CFL).
“Any time you win there’s going to be change, whether it’s in the coaching staff, the front office or guys looking for raises on other teams,” Durant said. “I’ve been in this league long enough and played football long enough to know that change is going to come.
“I love Dress, I love Sheets, I love those guys to death but the challenge is turning another guy into one of those stars. I look forward to that.”