What the top CFL free agents got paid

“You always overpay in free agency.”

That’s what one CFL player personnel man said about players hitting the open market and a look at the numbers indicates that was largely true in 2018 as well.

There was a lot of Canadian-coloured money thrown around for teams to land coveted football assets. The biggest dollars went to a national – Jamaal Westerman – which should serve as a reminder how valuable the ratio-breakers and starting Canucks are in the CFL.

If new Montreal Alouette defensive lineman Westerman plays six games in 2018 he’ll make $218,000 plus performance bonuses on his two-year contract. Westerman made around $165,000 in 2017 and Winnipeg offered the national pass rusher a raise of approximately $190,000 to stay with the Bombers but he elected to test the market and the gamble paid off, literally. Montreal general manager Kavis Reed reportedly flew to New Jersey to woo the Als prized free agent who has made 32 sacks in 47 career CFL games.

Just before the ball was snapped on free agency, defensive tackle Ted Laurent re-signed in Hamilton. Even though he took a pay cut from his 2017 salary, Laurent will make over $200,000 in 2018 and 2019 on his two-year pact. The 30-year-old has been a disruptive force on the Ticats’ defensive front for four years and over his career, Laurent has 150 tackles and 35 sacks in 110 games.

Elite linebacker Solomon Elimimian signed an extension in B.C. after the market opened that is worth over $200,000 in 2018 and 2019. The 2014 CFL MOP produced a league record 144 tackles in 2017, beating his own mark by one. Elimimian is well worth the money.

The Riders brought Zach Evans for a hefty $170,000 price tag. There were talent evaluators who felt Evans was among the best Canadian defensive lineman in the league and it’s clear Saskatchewan had a similar rating. At 27 years old, Evans is in his prime which means the Riders should get quality production from the Regina native.

Hamilton secured their quarterback of the defence on the morning of Feb. 13 when free agency was just hours away. Larry Dean put his name on a one-year contract worth $160,000. Since becoming the man in the middle of the Ticats ‘D’, Dean has produced 174 tackles, five sacks, five forced fumbles and one interception in 36 games  – 94 stops earned the 29-year-old an East all-star nod in 2017.

After a big bounce-back season Euclid Cummings cashed in. He had a down year making 16 tackles and three sacks for Winnipeg in 2016, but recorded 21 tackles, eight sacks and forced three fumbles in 2017. That made the Lions ante up $160,000 for Cummings, a consistent pocket pusher from the inside who stays stout against the run.

Pass rusher Alex Bazzie came back from an impressive training camp and pre-season with the Arizona Cardinals to play six games for B.C. in 2017 making 12 tackles and three sacks. In 56 career CFL games, Bazzie has 32 sacks, proven ability to get the quarterback to the ground Edmonton paid under $160,000 for 2018 with an increase for 2019.

Nic Demski was coveted based on his pure athleticism and rare abilities as a combo receiver and returner. Winnipeg paid a $35,000 signing bonus and nearly $150,000 on the one-year deal Demski signed. Watching Demski used in game plans put together by Bombers offensive coordinator Paul LaPolice is going to be fun for all.

Kickers who can perform all three duties – kick-offs, punting and field goals – are hard to find, Canadian ones even tougher. That’s why Hamilton paid $145,000 on a one-year deal for Lirim Hajrullahu. He went 47-of-58 on field goals (81 per cent) with 44-yard punting average in 2017.

Noel Thorpe wants big, physical defensive ends for his defensive scheme and A.C. Leonard was an ideal fit. After transitioning from offence (receiver/tight end) the 26-year-old had 67 tackles and 10 sacks in two seasons under Chris Jones. He earned a $50,000 signing bonus and $145,000 for the quick and productive transition made to defence.

Montreal upgraded the secondary in two major ways: signing Tommie Campbell and Mitchell White. The Alouettes could pay over $150,000 to the former Stampeder while White will earn almost $140,000 (with an increase in 2019.) Campbell and White should form a formidable duo of cover men for Montreal and rookie defensive coordinator Kahlil Carter.

Winnipeg did their window shopping and really wanted the shiny item in the display case: Chandler Fenner. The Bombers locked down a versatile defender for two years at around $130,000 per season. He can play strong-side linebacker and various positions in the secondary while being a demon on special teams.

Adam Konar displayed his ratio-breaking ability during 12 games in 2017 when he made 59 tackles, two interceptions, one sack and forced one fumble. That earned the University of Calgary product a raise on his two-year deal, worth in the neighbourhood of $130,000 for 2018 and $160,000 the following campaign. Just 24, Konar is a young, dynamic Canadian talent.

Sam Hurl’s arrival in Saskatchewan meant Henoc Muamba was on the way out for one reason: salary cap. The former Bombers starting middle linebacker will make around $110,000 in 2018. If healthy Muamba could’ve made $220,000. Hurl, the 27-year-old who started all 18 games for Winnipeg in 2017 making 65 tackles, is a much cheaper option. That savings allowed the Riders to boost the ratio flexibility.

Enter Jerome Messam. The extra cap dollars opened up in the Hurl for Muamba swap made it possible for Saskatchewan to bring a starting-calibre Canadian running back to Regina for around $95,000 plus another over $15,000 in possible playtime incentives. The 32-year-old is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing season in Calgary and appears to have some gas left in the Brampton Bus.

Justin Dunk

Justin Dunk

Justin Dunk was a five-year starter at quarterback for the University of Guelph. He covers the league for Sportsnet and 3DownNation.
Justin Dunk
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Justin Dunk
About Justin Dunk (841 Articles)
Justin Dunk was a five-year starter at quarterback for the University of Guelph. He covers the league for Sportsnet and 3DownNation.

29 Comments on What the top CFL free agents got paid

  1. “Sam Hurl’s arrival in Saskatchewan meant Henoc Muamba was on the way out for one reason: salary cap.”

    Per your own reporting it was the other way around, Muamba’s immanent departure led to the Riders signing Hurl. You reported that the Riders had been shopping Muamba for a while, and asking him to take a pay cut as another option. When neither of those things looked like they were going to happen the Riders signed Hurl.

    • greenenvy? // March 7, 2018 at 5:24 pm //

      Either way – Hurl’s a dud, Plus 5. There were lots of options out there much better than Hurl & cheaper than Muamba.

      • Footballintheolympics // March 7, 2018 at 7:20 pm //

        That are Canadian?
        Name them

        • greenenvy? // March 7, 2018 at 11:48 pm //

          Do you have to be Canadian to play MLB? If money is the issue why get the cheapest Canadian rather than a good cheaper import? Or can the Riders not put 7 Cdn starters on the field if one of them isn’t a MLB? What’s your point?

    • Cal Gary Shampeders // March 8, 2018 at 8:44 am //

      Sounds like some CFL players will be able to feed their families this year and won’t have to work construction jobs.

      As for your comment, you are merely confirming what Justin said: That Muamba was gone due to his salary (and not production). Stop splitting hairs.

  2. See … 3DN is capable of interesting and informative articles. One more stupidly inane “The Riders (hypothetical) starting line up for an outdoor hockey game” and I will never browse this site again.

    More of this = more clicks.

  3. Not sure why the TiCats have a love affair with Ted Laurent. $200K takes up too much salary cap. Don’t get me wrong Ted was a great player but Ted is slowing down and is not worth that much money His numbers over the last 2 years show it too!

  4. I don’t understand those of you who hate on 3downs weird crap. I don’t like it, so I don’t read it; but it doesn’t offend me that it exists. They post something every day, and sometimes that means innane crap. I love articles of this type but I recognize that a CFL all year round website requires some filler, especially filler that tends to generate clicks and helps pay the bills. Just ignore what you don’t like, and enjoy those articles that make you happy. Seems easy enough.

  5. Scottsask // March 7, 2018 at 2:19 pm //

    Only a fully developed adult could grasp something that complex.

  6. Hmmmm….being that salaries are confidential, from what keyhole does this stuff emanate? Or, is this stuff just as ridiculous as the story that claimed the Riders offered Bowman upwards of $260K (which he refused, ya right!)…cap space that they don’t have, for a receiver that they don’t need, while at the same time jettisoning Muamba, whom they could definitely use.

  7. SupaFlea // March 7, 2018 at 3:26 pm //

    How he missed Grymes and his $155k EE paid to keep him

  8. OldBaldGuy // March 7, 2018 at 6:28 pm //

    Lots of doorknobs commenting today. These are the dog days of the off season, so articles like this pop up everywhere. Not sure why the usual hate for the Riders but…kinda used to it. Salary caps dictate moves. The more the high priced free agency…the bigger the names let go. Hurl will not end up starting…but a good capable short term backup. The hate-on for him is like the trendy Nickelback slams.

  9. Hope all these guys produce. Except for Collarios with the Riders none of these deals are guaranteed unless they are on the roster starting on game 10 in the 2018 season. BY game 9 they can be cut and the weekly salary ends. Don’t expect any of them to get the boot but in the CFL it happens just like it does with the guys due bonuses.

    • greenenvy? // March 7, 2018 at 11:52 pm //

      That’s all fine & dandy, Jim Dandy, but the whole point of free agency is getting players who can play for you for the next year or couple of years, NOT outspending everyone & then releasing them halfway through the season or at the end of the season. Which, since you bring it up, is precisely the way free agency has gone with the Riders the Jones way since he’s been there. So go ahead & blow the wad on every free agent, whether he fits “the mysterious system” or not, & get rid of him a few games down the road. WINNING!!!

      • It’s like you have Rider tourettes envy.

      • Wow. “The whole point of free agency is getting players who can play for you for the next year or couple of years.” Really? So you’re saying that even though, for example, Lemon and Capppicotti were subsequently beaten out by better players Jefferson, Leonard and Antigha the Riders should have kept them anyway because “the whole point of free agency is getting players who can play for you for the next year or couple of years,” is that right? Keep the inferior guys for at least two years and then … you’re the champ? Is that it? So in other words, you’re pretty much just making this up as you go, right? You have an unhealthy obsession my friend, and it’s rotting your brain.
        youtube.com/watch?v=hIs5StN8J-0

        • greenenvy? // March 8, 2018 at 10:19 am //

          Why sign them if you can”t use them? You just confirmed Jones stupidity, Plus 5. Why don’t you educate yourself before spewing nonsense. Lemon has 50 sacks in 75 games, Hughes 99 in 147 games – same sacks/game avg in career but Lemon is 5 years younger. Leonard is gone & Antigha will back up Hughes. So now you have an older “Lemon” starting over Antigha & Jones hasn’t got Leonard, a guy he personally mentored for a year into DE from his natural position at TE. All for naught. BTW, another little fact, Rider experts – Leonard was 2nd in pressures in the CFL last year in 3 man rushes & 3rd in 4 man rushes. But since Jones didn’t sign him he must be crap. So, no use for Lemon but the doppleganger Geezer Hughes is signed for 2 years (but gone after one as this is the Jones way). And develop a young Leonard for what? To basically give him away when he is starting to perform. That’s OK. The lead lemming in Regina can do no wrong & the green gophers are dutifully following him down the path. Newsflash, Plus 5, you can like the Riders & not Jones. He’s paid the big bucks to win a Cup, not 10 games & finish 4th. But I can take the heat. Altogether now. Lemmings unite for Chris.

          • greenenvy? If it wasn’t for Jones turning Leonard into a DE, would he even be playing football anymore? Realistically Jones gave him another shot at extending his football career. But why would you bring that up? Just another loser Jones hater. Haters are gonna hate I guess.
            Hughes and Jefferson are going to be unstoppable on that line. Those two alone and you mix either Nick James and/or Zach Evans. The Riders will lead the league in sacks this year by a large margin. Mark that on your calendar.

          • greenenvy? // March 8, 2018 at 4:03 pm //

            You miss the point. I give him credit for turning him into a good player. Why expend the energy & then don’t bother signing him? As for Nick James his career is 3 games. Don’t mark your all-star ballot just yet.

          • You have seemed to miss my and/or.
            Yes it has been only three games. But he was dominant during that span. Absolutely. Could he have used some serious conditioning?.. Absolutely. Which he has been getting this off season. Again do have Zack Evans, whom comes as a ratio buster. Much like Laurant… Except younger.
            The reason for not signing him, could be as easy as his asking price. You never know. The salary cap is a wondrous thing.
            I’ll mark my all star ballot alright, and that name’s are going to be Willie Jefferson for the Defense and Zach Collaros for Offense( He will have a dominate year with the Riders)

          • greenenvy? // March 8, 2018 at 8:30 pm //

            Laurent no. Evans is 2nd tier. Wynn & Laing were the all-star DT’s in the East. As a National, he’s behind Laurent & Laing. As a DT he is behind those 2, Sewell, Johnson & Brooks. But no doubting he is a good DT. A good signing for the Riders. James is unproven. Zero sacks 3 games. He’s a big body. Dylan Wynn, rookie, 6 sacks, 34 tackles, all-star. As a rookie, Bowers played sparingly behind Sewell & Cummings – 7 sacks, 14 games, 13 pressures. Cory Johnson, Wpg, 5 sacks, 20 DT’s. Those are good rookie DT’s who move the DL. James may turn out to be good but an unknown right now. Great you love the Riders but your bias is showing. Very small sample on James.

  10. Bazzie at under $160,000 for 2018 with an increase for 2019 is a reasonable deal and the Willis trade made room for this, but that means Chick can’t make it to the end of 2018. Chick sticks to hedge the bet, but if one or both of Fields and Allen make the grade he will be purged for cap reasons.

    Adam Konar is reasonable at $130,000 for 2018, but he will have to pick it up and another vet might have to be purged for the $160,000 in 2019 to make sense.

    • greenenvy? // March 8, 2018 at 10:59 am //

      I suspect Greenwood has only one year in Edmonton. He’s very good insurane, if healthy, but this may be his ladt year.

  11. $200,000 for Solomon Elimimian is way too much. On the other hand $110,000 for J.Messam is a steal

  12. Well envy….I can’t wait to see the havoc the old geezer and Jefferson cause on field this year. I live in Calgary, can’t stand the Stamps and think Dickenson is a bit whiney but can appreciate the product they put on field. Matter of fact I think I can find something positive to say for almost every team in the CFL – find it way easier than going overboard hating on one.

    That said envy – this is an opinion board and you are certainly entitled to hate everything to do with the Riders, although it does get old. Enjoy the season !

    • greenenvy? // March 8, 2018 at 3:54 pm //

      I don’t hate the Riders. I question Jones acumen as a GM. He’s rolling the dice. After Collaros held him up with all that gtd money (granted Jones didn’t have much choice other than release him), wouldn’t you target your LT, who is pretty good, to re-sign in FA? He’s till dicking around with that a month later. Out of ALL the FA signings last year, Owens & Brouillette are still around & this year he signed 7 of 22 of his own pending FA’s. I don’t know what that means to you but that’s a lot of players that don’t “fit in” this year. Guys like Hufnagel, you might notice, concentrate on signing their “must haves” & then add a few pieces. Jones just churns the roster every year because he hasn’t got the talent he wants, or this wouldn’t be happening. Sign, release, sign release. HE’s the guy who brought them here-the heralded great “talent evaluator”. Now if you want to convince me that Messam & Hughes still got it because Jones knows more than Hufnagel, I’ll go with Huf any day. And good luck with the 3 LB positions & 2 CB’s coz Johnson isn’t getting any younger either. I feel sorry for the Riders. What did 3Down say in their podcast about the PLAN. Looks like Jones & crew are drawing it up on napkins as they go. I clearly remember the euphoria in 2016 when Jones arrived & a healthy Durant was on board. But DD 2016 was not DD 2013 & now you will have me believe the 0-12 Collaros 2018 is going to be ZC 2015? Based upon what, Yup? You’re the expert, give me something. I’d agree with you if the past gave any indication that he was doing anything more than shuffling the deck every year. But, as you say, you are entitled to your opinion. The lemmings are forming to the right. Take your spot Yup & see where it leads you. I already know.

      • Seems as though you’ve got it all figured out envy. Hey, I think Kavis Is a waste of DNA but I don’t go out of my way to comment about the Als or obsess about what other GM’S or coaches do with their team. I think Toronto could use a few more fans in the stands but I’m not going to get warped around the axel about what goes on in the center of the universe. I do enjoy the CFL and that said – would like to see Montreal do well, and for Toronto to fill those seats for the good of the league. Of course I don’t agree with all that Jones has done, but he has made some moves that have worked out better than my “expert opinion” would have ever thought. I’m going to be honest – Collaros has me a bit concerned but if he regains his form, Jones will look pretty good. 2018 has yet to begin and training camp will tell us a lot more than March 8th will.

  13. canadianfootballfan // March 8, 2018 at 8:33 pm //

    How is what they make any of our business?

    Are the writers on this blog going to share how much they make also? I don’t want to know… but if you’re going to tell everyone player salaries, then why not?

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