In a passing league, the only way to win defensively is to make life uncomfortable for your opponent’s quarterback.
Below are the ten highest-paid defensive ends in the CFL who will be making their impact felt off the edge this upcoming season.
“Hard money” is a slang term used to refer to any portion of a contract that is paid even if a player is hurt. This includes salary, a signing bonus, housing money, workout bonuses, travel allowances, off-season roster bonuses, and report-and-pass bonuses.
Any additional portions — often referred to as “playtime” — are outlined in part or in full in the paragraph accompanying each player. These bonuses are often tied to yardage production, dressing for a certain number of games, scoring production, being named an all-star or winning a league award.
Players have been listed below in order of hard money from most to least. When two players have the same amount of hard money, the player with the higher maximum value has been listed first.
Please note that “N” denotes national players (ie. Canadians) and “A” denotes American players.
1) Ja’Gared Davis, Toronto Argonauts (A)
Hard money: $210,000
Maximum value: $244,500
You get what you pay for when it comes to pass rush and the Argos needed to spend big to get the biggest non-QB on the market. Davis collected a $70,000 signing bonus from the team and will get another $20,000 once he plays his first game, with a $1,500 bonus for being a East all-star, $2,500 if named a CFL all-star, and $3,500 each for winning up to three league awards.
2) Willie Jefferson, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (A)
Hard money: $225,000
Maximum value: $225,000
The four-time CFL all-star is making all hard money on a one-year deal that follows an 18-tackle, seven-sack, three-forced fumble season in Bomberland. C’mon down to Williepeg!
3) A.C. Leonard, Saskatchewan Roughriders (A)
Hard money: $190,000
Maximum value: $205,000
The CFL’s reigning sack leader’s new two-year deal came with a $40,000 signing bonus, but doesn’t have any major awards-based incentives. Instead, Leonard will receive $10,000 following his first game and an additional $277.78 for every game he plays in 2022.
4) Mathieu Betts, B.C. Lions (N)
Hard money: $160,000
Maximum value: $189,000
A high-motor former third overall pick, Betts signed a two-year contract in B.C. with a $30,000 signing bonus. It is a gamble for the Lions on a player without a sack in 2021, but Betts has $1,000 riding on being the West Division sack leader and $2,000 on being the league sack champ. The Laval product will collect $1,000 for every game he plays more than 51 percent of the defensive snaps and $3,000 if he’s named Most Outstanding Canadian, with a $2,000 incentive for being a West all-star and $3,000 for CFL honours.
5) Jackson Jeffcoat, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (A)
Hard money: $152,000
Maximum value: $175,000
The pride of Texas, Jeffcoat earned himself some money with a nine sack season and received a $40,000 signing bonus from the Bombers. The CFL all-star will earn another $13,000 for playing his first game and an additional $10,000 for dressing in 12 games next season.
6) Nick Usher, Montreal Alouettes (A)
Hard money: $150,000
Maximum value: $160,000
Usher was fourth on his team in sacks last year, but still earned a contract extension that will make you say “Yeah!” The Alouettes paid him a $32,500 signing bonus, with $17,500 more on the way once he reports to training camp. Usher will have another payday after his first game, with a $10,000 bonus for making the active roster.
7) David Menard, B.C. Lions (N)
Hard money: $137,000
Maximum value: $152,500
Despite being the East nominee for Most Outstanding Canadian last season, Menard will be the second highest-paid Canadian defensive end on his new team. The former Alouette received a $20,000 signing bonus to return to the west coast and will get $8,000 more following his first game, with an additional $416.66 for any game he plays more than 51 percent of defensive snaps.
8) Kwaku Boateng, Ottawa Redblacks (N)
Hard money: $127,000
Maximum value: $168,500
A disappointing final season in Edmonton reduced Boateng’s value, but he can make up a lot of that in incentives. On top of a $15,000 signing bonus, the Ghanaian-born pass rusher will receive $19,000 after his first game on the active roster and $750 any time he plays more than 51 percent of the defensive snaps. Boateng can also collect $1,000 for leading the division in sacks, $2,000 for leading the CFL, $1,000 for being an East all-star, $2,000 for league honours, and $3,000 if he wins Most Outstanding Player.
9) Avery Ellis, Montreal Alouettes (A)
Hard money: $108,000
Maximum value: $112,000
A quietly consistent pass rusher in four seasons with Ottawa, Ellis’ new two-year deal in Montreal came with a $7,500 signing bonus. He’ll receive a cheque of equivalent value for reporting to training camp, with a $1,500 incentive for being a East All-Star and $2,500 for making the CFL team.
T-10) Pete Robertson, Saskatchewan Roughriders (A)
Hard money: $100,000
Maximum value: $123,100
After a promising first CFL season, Robertson collected a $20,000 signing bonus and a pay bump from the Riders. He’ll get $700 for every game he plays more than 51 percent of the defensive snaps and plenty of sack incentives, with $1,000 for being the team leader, $1,500 for the divisional lead, and $2,000 if he leads the league in QB takedowns. A West all-star selection earns him another $1,000, league honours are worth $2,000, with $3,000 for winning Most Outstanding Player.
T-10) Robbie Smith, Toronto Argonauts (N)
Hard money: $100,000
Maximum value: $121,500
The Argos’ promising 25-year-old received a $12,500 signing bonus on his new deal with Toronto and can collect $555.55 for every game he plays more than 51 percent of the defensive snaps. Smith can earn $1,000 for being the team’s sole leader in sacks, $1,500 for the East lead, and $2,000 for leading the CFL, with a $1,000 bonus for recording more than 10 special teams tackles. The young Canadian will get $1,000 if he’s a divisional all-star, $2,000 as a CFL all-star, and $3,000 if he wins MOP.
Editor’s note: a previous version of this article had Willie Jefferson ranked No. 7 but this has since been corrected.