Adam Bighill determined to prove value following $120,000 off-season pay cut

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ linebacker Adam Bighill is determined to prove his value following a massive off-season pay cut.

“I’m always trying to prove something. My situation obviously wasn’t ideal and I’m going to play to the level that I always play and when we get back to a normal year, I anticipate that my play is going to reflect in my next contract,” said Bighill in a videoconference.

“I’m out here to be the best football player that I can be, one of the best to ever do it. My work and everything that goes into playing this game, that’s what I play for. The contract states what the contract states, but still I’m going to go out and play and do what I do.”

Bighill would have made $235,000 in 2020 had the CFL season been played with additional bonuses available if he were to win an award at the divisional or league level. With salaries being slashed across the board amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Bighill was forced to renegotiate his contract and wound up taking a massive pay cut.

The nine-year veteran received a $5,000 signing bonus to ink his restructured deal for 2021, which includes a league-minimum $65,000 salary. He will earn a $25,000 bonus for making the active roster and an additional $20,000 for dressing for at least three games, which means he should earn $115,000 in 2021.

While he remains one of the highest-paid linebackers in the CFL, Bighill’s new contract is worth a little under half of what he would have made before the pandemic. One of the factors in his pay reduction was the 61 tackles he made in 2019, which was down from the 105 he recorded in 2018 when he was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player.

Though he’s not using it as an excuse, Bighill spent a portion of the 2019 season fighting through on injury.

“I wasn’t 100 percent healthy, but I wasn’t out there being a liability either. When it came to performance, I did my job in 2019 and I’m proud to be part of a defence where I’m doing my job. If my stats were down because I missed a couple games, we were also the least ran-on in the entire CFL. It’s not like we had a ton of opportunities to make tackles in the box,” said Bighill.

Winnipeg allowed a league-best 1,156 rushing yards in 2019, which was 577 yards fewer than the second-place Calgary Stampeders. The club also led the CFL in yards per carry allowed (4.5) and rushing touchdowns allowed (nine).

“I’m just fitting into my role in the defence and being a leader and trying to help those around me be better. Our front — those guys are animals, so I’m trying to make the plays that come to me and not try to overdo it and, at the end of the day, take what I can get and help other guys around me be better players,” said Bighill.

The five-time CFL all-star will turn 33 in October and remains unsure of how much longer he will play professional football. What’s clear is that he feels as though his determination and work ethic will allow him to play for many more years if that’s what he desires.

“When I don’t want to compete anymore, that’s probably when I’ll want to be done. I’m such a competitive person and I still have that fire,” said Bighill. “If I’m competing, I’m all in — that means training, diet, sleep, film, flexibility, everything. I feel like no one’s going to outwork me when I want to compete and that’s why I feel like I can compete at the level I do and I can play as long as I want to based on those factors.”

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.