February 1, 2024

Bane’s gains rewarded with new contract

Shawn Bane Jr. is returning to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Actually, he never left.

On Thursday, the CFL team announced that the 28-year-old receiver — who had been eligible to test free agency — had signed a two-year contract extension that carries through the 2025 season.

“We’re happy to get Shawn back,” General Manager and Vice-President of Football Operations Jeremy O’Day said.

“He had a great year for us — everything we hoped for last year when we signed him in free agency.”

Bane Jr. made 93 catches — the eighth-highest single-season total in franchise history — for 1,104 yards and four touchdowns after signing with the Green and White on Feb. 14, 2023.

“We were trying to add a little bit of speed to our receiving corps and Shawn has the ability to break long ones,” O’Day noted.

“He can run all the route tree and he’s just an exceptional guy in the locker room. Just like all the guys we re-signed, we’re excited to have him back. He brings an element to our offence that we’re looking for.”

The list of re-signings also includes defensive lineman Anthony Lanier II and quarterback Mason Fine, both of whom were pending free agents.

As well, defensive back Rolan Milligan Jr., who had been under contract through 2024, recently extended his deal by another year.

“We think very highly of Rolan as a player,” O’Day said. “He obviously had a tough injury last year, but after working with him for the last number of years, you want him to be a part of your team for as long as you can.”

Milligan Jr. had two interceptions and a game-changing tackle early in the 2023 campaign before suffering a season-ending toe injury. The Roughriders had a 3-1 record with him in the lineup.

“He loves the organization and he loves the team,” O’Day said. “He’s a very quiet person, but he’s got a great work ethic and he plays very big on the field.”

So does Lanier II, who has registered a three-sack game in each of the past two seasons.

Lanier II was primarily a defensive tackle until being moved to defensive end last season. His continued presence excites newly hired Head Coach Corey Mace, who was a CFL defensive lineman from 2010 to 2015.

“Corey’s really excited to get to work with Anthony,” O’Day said. “He just feels like he can get a lot out of him.

“We’re likely going to be looking at moving him back inside, where he was his first year with us and where we can get him kind of matched up the way we want.

“We’re just excited to have him back. He brings energy to our team and, when he’s on his game, he’s pretty tough to block.

“Anthony loves Saskatchewan and let it be known that he wanted to be back. We just had to work through the details, which sometimes will take some time.”

That was the methodology that led the Roughriders to offer a new contract to Fine, who is entering his fourth CFL season.

He began the 2023 campaign as No. 2 on the depth chart. He was elevated to a front-line role when Trevor Harris suffered a season-ending knee injury in the fourth quarter of the fifth game.

Fine started the next four contests before being sidelined with a hamstring injury.

Jake Dolegala was the Roughriders’ primary signal-caller for the remaining nine games.

Fine, Dolegala and fellow quarterback Antonio Pipkin completed their contractual obligations in 2023. Harris and Shea Patterson remained under contract for 2024.

Pipkin signed a new deal on Nov. 23, leaving the Roughriders to decide whether to tender an offer to Fine or Dolegala.

“We spent a lot of time watching film of our quarterbacks from last year,” O’Day explained. “Obviously, with three of them that were becoming free agents in the off-season, we had to make sure that we evaluated them with our new Head Coach and our new Offensive Co-ordinator (Marc Mueller).

“We actually spent a lot of time evaluating those quarterbacks as a group and, through that process, we decided that we wanted to go with Mason.

“For us, it was just the fit with Marc’s offence and how comfortable he would be with the quarterback.

“They both have unique skill sets. They both have strengths and weaknesses. We spent a lot of time going through it and evaluating which quarterback would be a better fit for us moving forward.

“We were excited when we came to our decision and Mason’s super-excited to be back and excited to take that next step moving forward.”

Will there be one more step involving the quarterbacks? That question was posed to O’Day, who left open the option of adding a fifth signal-caller by the time training camp opens on May 12 in Saskatoon.

“We’re comfortable going with four, but there’s a possibility that we’ll add a fifth,” the Roughriders’ GM said. “We’re talking to some guys on our negotiation list, so we’ll continue to do that with some of those guys, but we feel good about where we’re at.

“We’re excited about Trevor coming back healthy. We’ve re-signed Mason and given him an opportunity to compete for that Number 2 position.

“There’s also Shea Patterson, who is a guy our incoming staff is excited to work with. He really just needs a bigger opportunity and we’re excited about him as well.

“We also re-signed Antonio early in free agency, so we feel like we’re in decent shape there.

“The reality is that if we can add another quarterback, we may, but there’s no guarantee that we will.”