The Lucky 13: CFL players who may take a shot at the NFL

A number of CFL players make the jump to the NFL every year to varying degrees of success. Some are released mere days into training camp, while others crack their club’s 53-man roster, eventually developing into solid starters. The minimum salary for a player on an active roster in the NFL is $525,000 USD while the average CFL player made approximately $90,000 CDN. Most of the players on this list would command between $100,000 and $200,000 CDN per year in the CFL.

Here is a look at which current CFL pending free agents could make the leap to the NFL this upcoming off-season.

DL Alex Bazzie, B.C. Lions

Bazzie’s lean for the NFL at just 230 pounds, but his 29 sacks in three CFL seasons speaks volumes about his ability as a speed rusher. Now 26, Bazzie projects as a 3-4 outside linebacker south of the border.

DL Mic’hael Brooks, B.C. Lions

A two-year veteran of the Seattle Seahawks (2013-2014), Brooks was dominant at times during his two-year stint in B.C., but ultimately lacked consistency. If Brooks can convince an NFL coaching staff that he’s willing to work, it’s possible the 25-year-old gets a deal down south.

VANCOUVER August 19 2016. BC Lions #16 Bryan Burnham eludes a tackle from a Calgary Stampeders player in a regular season CFL football game at BC Place, Vancouver, August 19 2016. ( Gerry Kahrmann / PNG staff photo) ( Prov / Sun News ) 00044657A Story by Mike Beamish

REC Bryan Burnham, B.C. Lions 

Burnham has NFL size at 6’2, 205 pounds and made more tough catches this past season than any other player in the CFL. The Tulsa product will turn 27 in April, likely making this his final shot at the NFL.

OL Derek Dennis, Calgary Stampeders

Fresh off winning the CFL’s Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman award, Dennis will have to convince NFL teams that he’s still worth a look at 29 years of age. As talented as Dennis is, that could be a tough sell.

DL Willie Jefferson, Saskatchewan Roughriders

His NFL stint with Washington was brief last season, but Jefferson’s output in just ten games with Saskatchewan — eight tackles, three sacks, and a forced fumble — could earn him another look. His outstanding size (6’6, 245) and youth (25) are major assets.

DB Abdul Kanneh, Ottawa Redblacks

Kanneh’s play regressed somewhat in 2016, but the two-time East Division all-star is still dominant at times. Former Eskimo halfback Aaron Grymes won a practice roster spot with the Philadelphia Eagles this fall at 25. Could Kanneh, 26, accomplish a similar feat this winter?

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LB Jeff Knox Jr., Saskatchewan Roughriders

Knox’s 112-tackle rookie season appears to have been an aberration, but the 25-year-old is still a talented football player. Knox’s age (24) and strong special teams play (19 tackles in 17 games this past season) will be strong selling points for his agent.

DL Cleyon Laing, Ottawa Redblacks

Laing was on the Miami Dolphins’ practice roster for eight weeks this season before his release at the end of October. After joining the Redblacks just prior to the playoffs, Laing will be looking for another shot down south.

DB John Ojo, Edmonton Eskimos

Getting an NFL look may prove to be impossible for a player coming off a torn Achilles, but NFL teams love big-bodied defensive backs. At 6’3, 205 pounds, Ojo fits the bill. If the 2015 CFL all-star can prove he’s healthy, there’s a chance he could land a deal with a team south of the border.

Toronto Argonauts play the Winnipeg Blue Bombers

REC Diontae Spencer, Toronto Argonauts

At just 5’8, 163 pounds, Spencer will have a tough time convincing NFL teams he’s worth a look as a receiver. Still, with blazing speed and a friend in superstar Odell Beckham Jr., it’s possible Spencer gets a shot down south as a return specialist.

REC Terrence Toliver, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

His age (29 in March) will work against him, but his size (6’5, 205) and nose for the end zone (15 touchdowns in 26 career CFL games) could be enough to get him an NFL shot.

OL Greg Van Roten, Toronto Argonauts

The former Green Bay Packer (2012-2013) has spent time at tackle, guard, and centre for the Argos since joining in the team in 2015, excelling at all three positions. That type of skill and versatility could attract attention from a league that is always on the hunt for offensive linemen.

Saskatchewan Roughriders' Ed Gainey (11) tackles Edmonton Eskimos' Derel Walker (87) during first half CFL football action in Edmonton on Friday, August 26, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Codie McLachlan

REC Derel Walker, Edmonton Eskimos

For my money, Walker is the only current CFL player who is guaranteed to receive an NFL contract this upcoming off-season. Recording 2,699 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in just 30 career CFL games, Walker is poised to earn a substantial signing bonus, increasing his chances of cracking a club’s 53-man roster.

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