Taj Smith avoids free agency, re-signs with Roughriders
Receiver had team-high 78 catches for 1,007 yards in 2013
Taj Smith is staying put.
The lanky receiver re-signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders on Thursday. Smith was scheduled to become a free agent at noon ET on Feb. 15.
Smith, 30, is entering his third season with Saskatchewan. The six-foot-one, 198-pound receiver had a team-high 78 catches for 1,007 yards and seven touchdowns last year.
Taj is a pretty big part of what we do, obviously. ...One guy off the list and an important guy is a good thing.- Roughriders GM Brendan Taman
"Taj is a pretty big part of what we do, obviously," general manager Brendan Taman told reporters. "He was very committed to being here and Jeremy [assistant GM Jeremy O'Day] did a lot of great work behind the scenes to get it done."
"One guy off the list and an important guy is a good thing."
Smith 11 catches for 186 yards in Saskatchewan's two playoff wins before registering one reception for five yards in the Riders' 45-23 Grey Cup win over Hamilton. Smith has recorded 125 career catches for 1,697 yards and nine touchdowns in 31 regular-season games with Saskatchewan.
Taman still faces a busy off-season as Saskatchewan still has 16 potential free agents, including slotback Weston Dressler, running back Kory Sheets, kicker Chris Milo and punter Ricky Schmitt, who Taman said worked out for the NFL's Buffalo Bills on Thursday. Taman is hopeful he might re-sign one or two before the free-agent deadline.
"We're pretty aggressive to get something done before the 15th," Taman said. "But realistically one or two and that's probably what it's going to be."
Last month, the Riders signed rookie free-agent kicker Brett Cameron, the son of Hall of Fame punter Bob Cameron who attended Winnipeg's training camp last summer. The younger Cameron spent four seasons at the University of North Dakota (2009-12) before signing with the Bombers.
"He [Cameron] is a legit contender to come in and compete but Ricky will dictate a lot of that," Taman said. "Ricky would like to come back and we're working towards that and hopefully we can get that done before [Feb. 15] but we'll see."
"We've had on-and-off communication with [Milo's] agent, moreso from our end. He's very driven to stay here if he can but business is business. I'm sure he'll have an offer to mull over once the 15th hits so we'll see where it goes."
Sheets and Dressler were key contributors to Saskatchewan's Grey Cup push in 2013 but both have garnered NFL interest since the end of the season. If they sign south of the border, the expectation is neither would be back with the Riders until September, at the earliest.
Sheets finished second in CFL rushing with 1,598 yards. He capped his season by running for a record 197 yards in leading the Riders to just their fourth league championship.
The five-foot-seven, 179-pound Dressler led the Riders with nine TD catches and was second in receptions (70) and yards (1,011). He registered his fourth straight 1,000-yard campaign and fifth in six seasons with Saskatchewan.
"Everybody here is a big Weston Dressler fan and I think he deserves a chance if he can get one," Taman said. "I have no idea how it's going to play out but he's always welcome here no matter if it's January, September, October, November.
"If that's what he wants to do I really hope he can achieve that goal and we'll adjust accordingly. We can't really control any of that so we'll sit back and see what happens."