Salary cap shuffle brought beast defensive lineman Micah Johnson back to Riders

Photo courtesy: Hannah Souster

In a way, it’s like defensive lineman Micah Johnson never left the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Last February, Johnson signed a one-year contract worth $200,000 with the B.C. Lions during CFL free agency, but there was no Canadian football played in 2020. He never suited up for the Leos and re-signed in Riderville following a different allocation within the Riders’ salary cap.

“It wasn’t necessarily that we were moving on, it was more of a financial cap issue for us where we had to retain some of the players that we needed to and at that point we just didn’t feel like we could fit it in,” general manager Jeremy O’Day said in a videoconference.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say that we moved away from Micah. Every year you’re dealing with different challenges to your salary cap and moving into last year we had to make a decision whether we thought that a salary to that extent would fit within our structure.”

Due to the ramifications of COVID-19 and the teams spending to the salary cap floor rather than the ceiling, Johnson’s market price dropped. He inked a one-year pact with Saskatchewan worth $119,000 in hard money with $15,750 available in playtime, statistical and award incentives. That’s approximately a $65,000 difference from what Johnson could have earned in 2020.

Johnson’s contract breaks down like this: $77,000 base salary, $20,000 signing bonus, $12,000 housing allowance, $5,000 travel allowance, $5,000 first time active roster bonus, $3,000 Most Outstanding Defensive Player, $2,000 CFL all-star, $2,000 league sack leader, $1,000 team sack leader, $1,000 division all-star, and $375 per game for playing 51 percent or more of the defensive snaps.

“Every year is different. We’ve never been disappointed in Micah’s play by any means. He’s a very good football player, he’s a disruptive football player,” O’Day said.

“We were happy to hear that the feeling was mutual that he enjoyed our team and believed in our organization and wanted to come back with us. We were excited when we talked to him.”

After declining to pay Charleston Hughes, O’Day shifted his focus to Johnson for the 2021 season.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.