What's the deal with the option?

I was just reading on TSN that the Riders have signed a couple receivers to one-year plus an option.

What is this option? Where did it come from, and why do we have it? What are the stipulations? If a guy goes to an NFL team, what happens there? Does his CFL team still hold his rights if he returns?

I gotta be honest, at the moment I'm not a big fan of it... :?

All CFL contracts are minimum two-years. Historically, the final year of the contract is called the option year. Clubs have the option of keeping the player for another season, they would normally be paid the average salary for the length of the contract...or he could be released.

When the CFL ran into some financial difficulties in the late 1990's, the NFL offered the CFL a $3M no-interest loan in exchange for the NFL being able to sign CFL players in their option year.

The CFL paid the loan off in full and the NFL deal has expired. Supposedly the "NFL option year" was written into the last CFL Player's Agreement, so its terms are still in effect. Option year players can still tryout and sign in the NFL, but the CFL team receives nothing in return. If the option year player is released from his NFL team, he has 10 days for any NFL team to claim him, then he rights would revert to the CFL team for the remainder of the season.

But I think there are very good reasons why the CFL has always mandated two-year minimum contracts and they should go back to that standard.

The option gives the team well, the option to keep the player for that additional year.
It does allow the player to try out for an NFL team in that option year but the player will still be under contract with his CFL team should he be cut.
Montreal's √Čtienne Boulay last year is an example..
He tried out with the Jets, was cut and then returned to play with Montreal

Given that all player contracts in the CFL are not guaranteed, the option year is actually a benefit only to the player, not the teams really - even though it is the team's option. That is, to say your contract is two years or to say that it is one year plus an option, for example, really seems to me to be no different from a team's perspective since they can drop the player any time they want with no ramifications. Conversely, the option year allows a player the possibility of going to the NFL one year "earlier", so to speak, than they otherwise would have been able if the option wasn't there. Just an observation.

Thanks for explaining it, guys. Legal, that's one thing I don't like about the option year, it seem to favour the NFL. If a guy wants to test the waters in the NFL and things don't work out, by the time he gets back, the CFL season is half over. It seems like such a waste. I suppose it wouldn't be any different if the person became a free agent and decided to head south instead. But it's the fact that we basically give them that option instead of signing them to two years.

I don't know... I just don't like seeing players head south.

I think like many things, the option year has pros and cons. Some players will come to the CFL and try to showcase their talents, hoping to get back to the NFL. The option year gives them that opportunity but gives both them and the team some security as well. Would a team really invest in a player for only one year and wold the player sign for two, if both parties realize the NFL if the desired outcome for the player?

As for the origin of the "option", I could be wrong about this, but I believe originally, a player in his "option" played at a reduced salary--a % of his base contract.

But that is effectly what is happening anyway. Look at J Richardson....He signed for 1 year plus an option. Yes he resigned with the Als but had he decided not to and go down south. The team would have invested in him for one year

The point being, that 1+1 is the middle ground between either a one year deal or a two year deal. The player keeps his option open to try the NFL again and the team continues to own his rights for a second year if the player either chooses to stay or fails to latch on with an NFL team. I am not trying to say it is the perfect system. Just saying it has some benefits as well as some downside. The biggest downside I see is it gives the appearance of the CFL just being a minor league feeder system.

This deal with the NFL seems to have had a positive effect in recruiting for the CFL. Players who have been reluctant to come to Canada for two years before having the chance to return to the NFL, now think "hey I can go up there for 6 months and get another shot in the NFL".
However, once they get up here many of them find out that they like the league and the country and end up staying.