Detailing how the CFL’s new NFL window works

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

The CFL has officially reintroduced the NFL window with a new set of guidelines for how players from the Canadian league can go about signing contracts south of the border.

The league first created the NFL window in 1997 and it remained in place until 2012. The CFL has tried to bring it back in recent years and it’s now returned after clearing the necessary hurdles with the NFL.

Any CFL player — not just pending free agents — is eligible to use the NFL window, which opened Dec. 13, 2021 and closes on Feb. 8, 2022.

The only exception to this rule is players who receive off-season bonuses after Dec. 12, 2021, which deems them ineligible for the NFL window. Depending on the nature of their contracts, however, some players can get around this rule by deferring bonus payments until after the Feb. 8, 2022 deadline.

There was some confusion after I reported that Ottawa Redblacks’ return specialist DeVonte Dedmon had worked out for the Chicago Bears.

The 26-year-old received a signing bonus when he re-signed with Ottawa following the 2021 season but his extension was signed well before the Dec. 12 deadline. As such, he’s still eligible for the NFL window.

If offered an NFL contract, players can opt out of their CFL contract by signing off on a document that outlines the following terms:

I am aware that by opting out, I am not eligible to sign with any other CFL Club or in any other professional football league other than the NFL during the term of my SPC and should I wish to return to the CFL during the term of my SPC and I’m fit to play skilled football, I must return to [previous CFL team] and sign a new contract for the exact amounts and term of my previously terminated contract.

This agreement prevents players from switching CFL teams if their NFL opportunity is cut short. For example, John Doe wouldn’t be allowed to opt out of his contract with Toronto to sign with Cincinnati on Monday, then sign with Hamilton if he’s released on Tuesday. He’d have to return to Toronto under the same terms of his original CFL contract.

This rule does not apply to players who are not under contract in the CFL for 2022. As they are pending free agents, they’d be allowed to sign with any CFL club if they were released by a team south of the border.

Players who opt out of contracts that include off-season signing bonuses or roster bonuses will have those amounts placed into an escrow account.

If the player returns to their CFL team by Sept. 13, 2022, they will receive the bonus money in a prorated amount. If the player does not report back to their CFL team by Sept. 13, 2022, the bonus money will revert back to the team.

Over 10 CFL players already have NFL workouts lined up this off-season, including Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ defensive back DeAundre Alford, Saskatchewan Roughriders’ receiver Brayden Lenius, and Dedmon.

Will any of them sign south of the border? Stay tuned to 3DownNation where we’ll have all the details.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.