It’s always interesting when a traded player is traded again before he even joins the new team, and especially when that takes place on the same day as the original trade. In the Canadian Football League, that happened to two different players Friday, in a bizarre series of events that involved six different teams. The players in question are both veteran defensive ends, Charleston Hughes (a four-time CFL all-star who started the day with the Calgary Stampeders) and Odell Willis (a two-time league all-star who began the day with the Edmonton Eskimos). CFL.ca has the timeline of how it went down:
2 p.m. ET, Calgary, Alta.:
The Stampeders announce they’ve parted ways with Charleston Hughes after 10 seasons, trading him to the Ticats.
The trade sends Hughes and the 34th overall pick in the 2018 draft to Hamilton in exchange for the 28th overall pick in the 2018 draft and a fourth round pick in 2019. …
5:02 p.m. ET, Regina, Sask.:
Three hours after being traded for the first time in his career, Charleston Hughes is traded a second time.
The Riders get Hughes at a cost of quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. …
5:14 p.m. ET, Edmonton, Alta.:
The Eskimos announce that after five seasons with the Green and Gold, Odell Willis has been traded to the nation’s capital for defensive lineman Jake Ceresna. …
5:31 p.m. ET, Vancouver, B.C.:
Hopefully Ottawa fans didn’t get too excited, because 17 minutes after acquiring a star veteran defensive end, the REDBLACKS are trading him to BC for a draft pick and a negotiation list player.
Neither Hughes nor Willis tweeted about this Thursday, but Roughriders’ linebacker Henoc Muamba had an apt commentary:
— Henoc Muamba (@HenocMuamba) February 2, 2018
That’s quite the day for both Willis and Hughes. Both have been excellent CFL players, and both had strong 2017s, with Hughes recording 40 tackles and 11 sacks (earning a league all-star nod) and Willis notching 22 and eight. Now, part of this seems likely to be about their age; Willis is 33, and Hughes is 34, with both reaching that age in December. But the CFL is a rare league where experience really counts and many players above 30 thrive, as shown by Hughes, who has 27 sacks over the last 32 games (more than anyone else in the last two seasons). So this is also probably at least partly about their contracts, and about Edmonton and Calgary trying to get younger and cheaper while B.C. and Saskatchewan pick up more proven players. The CFL has a strict salary cap, and veteran players are often paid much better than younger prospects, so we often see teams move on from some impressive veterans if they think they can find younger talent to replace them more cheaply and give them financial flexibility elsewhere.
The compensation given for these players in each case is interesting, too. Hughes drew a fourth-rounder (and a pick swap) in the first trade and Adams in the second trade, and it’s not clear which is better. Yes, former Eastern Washington and Oregon star Adams has a high upside, but he hasn’t really lit up the CFL so far in stints in Montreal and Saskatchewan. And the Riders had a glut of quarterbacks after acquiring Zach Collaros from Hamilton earlier this offseason, with Collaros and Brandon Bridge seen as the likely candidates to start, so Adams was pretty expendable for them, while the Ticats can use Adams as at least insurance (Jeremiah Masoli looks to be the starter for now, but there are still rumblings about Johnny Manziel if they’re able to work out a deal with him).
Meanwhile, fourth-round picks sometimes pan out great and sometimes don’t work out at all. The CFL’s draft is only of Canadian players, as American players are acquired either through the negotiation list or free agency. The 2015 fourth round (a fair example, as it often takes a few years to really evaluate players’ CFL contributions) saw picks of several players who are no longer in the league, but also selections like Bridge and B.C. linebacker Adrian Clarke. So it’s a gamble, but if you get the right player, that could be even more useful than Adams. Meanwhile, Ceresna spent some time with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets in 2016 (working out for the Redblacks in between), but 2017 was his first CFL campaign, and he recorded 18 tackles and two sacks. Is that better or worse than the fourth-rounder and negotiation list player the Lions exchanged for Willis? That all depends on who the player is (unknown) and how Ottawa uses that pick.
What’s particularly funny about this are the two trades for each player in one day, though. That’s completely allowed, and has happened before (as with Kevin Glenn, who became the first CFL player to land on the roster of all nine teams after signing with Edmonton earlier this offseason; one of those teams was Toronto, who only had his rights for a few hours in 2004) but it suggests that these teams perhaps initially didn’t want to trade their players within the West Division (and thus face them more often). And yet, they’ll have to do so anyway thanks to the East Division teams they dealt them to flpping them right back to the West. That’s maybe a further argument against the “don’t trade players within the division” idea (which is rather outmoded overall, to be honest; do you really want to get less back for a player just so you don’t have to play them as much?), and one that suggests teams should trade with whoever they want. After all, if the team you initially deal with is just going to flip the player back, what’s the point in not exploring that market in the first place? At any rate, it led to a very lit CFL hot stove, and to an interesting day for the players in question.