As the game of football evolves, linebacker isn’t the marquee position that it once was, but teams will still pay top dollar to obtain a beating heart for their defence.
Below are the fifteen highest-paid middle and weak-side linebackers in the CFL. Those who play the unique strong-side position will be listed in another article.
“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) Adam Bighill, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (A)
Hard money: $165,000
Maximum value: $175,000
When you win Most Outstanding Defensive Player, you get paid accordingly. Bighill passed on a signing bonus to give his team some wiggle room, but will collect a $65,000 bonus whether he’s on the active roster or injured list in Week 1. The heartbeat of the Bombers’ defence will also receive a $5,000 cheque if he repeats as the divisional nominee for MODP or wins the league award for a fourth time.
2) Wynton McManis, Toronto Argonauts (A)
Hard money: $150,000
Maximum value: $169,000
A huge get for the Argos after a stint in the NFL, McManis was lured back north with a $45,000 signing bonus and will get another $10,000 bump once he plays his first game. The one-time Stampeder could receive $1,000 if he makes a the East all-star team, $2,500 for being a CFL all-star, $2,500 if he’s a divisional nominee for Most Outstanding Player, and $3,000 for winning the big award.
3) Henoc Muamba, Toronto Argonauts (N)
Hard money: $138,000
Maximum value: $150,000
Hometown hero Henoc Muamba is loving it back in The Six, but keeping him there didn’t happen for free. The 2019 Most Outstanding Canadian commanded a $50,000 signing bonus and will receive $666.66 for every game he plays at least 51 percent of the defensive snaps.
4) Chris Ackie, Montreal Alouettes (N)
Hard money: $136,500
Maximum value: $156,000
Ackie signed an extension with a $30,000 pay raise, much of it in the form of a $25,000 signing bonus. The versatile Canadian will get $250 for every game he dresses and another $500 if he plays more than 51 percent of the defensive snaps, with a $1,000 incentive for being an East all-star, $2,000 if he’s a CFL all-star, and $3,000 for winning Most Outstanding Player.
5) Cameron Judge, Calgary Stampeders (N)
Hard money: $120,500
Maximum value: $151,000
Judge’s short stint in Toronto was a bit of a disappointment, but Calgary gave up the rights to their starting safety and a boatload of cash to flip their ratio at linebacker. Judge took home a $10,000 signing bonus and will collect $20,000 after his first game. He’ll receive $250 for every game he plays at least one percent of the total snaps, a $1,000 bonus for being a West all-star, $2,000 for league honours, $1,000 for being the team nominee for any league award and another $2,000 if he wins one.
6) Avery Williams, Ottawa Redblacks (A)
Hard money: $120,000
Maximum value: $193,000
It’s a long shot, but if he puts together a perfect season, Avery Williams could be the highest-paid linebacker in the league. He’s already received a $15,000, but maxing out comes with a laundry list of incentives, including $35,000 for making the active roster the first time, $5,000 for playing five game, and $10,000 for playing in 10.
Williams will get $2,000 for leading the team in tackles, $4,000 for leading the division, and $6,000 for leading the league, with another $1,500 for being an East all-star and $3,000 for making the CFL team. He’ll get another $1,500 for being the Most Outstanding Player on his team, $2,000 for being the divisional nominee, and $3,000 if he gets the trophy from the league.
7) Jameer Thurman, Calgary Stampeders (A)
Hard money: $116,000
Maximum value: $146,000
Massively underrated last season, Thurman took home a nice $22,500 signing bonus to stay with the Stamps and will get an additional $15,000 his first time on the active roster. Every game he plays nets a $500 pay day, with $1,000 for a West all-star selection, $2,000 for being a CFL all-star, $1,000 if he wins any team award and $2,000 for receiving any major league accolade.
8) Micah Teitz, Saskatchewan Roughriders (N)
Hard money: $114,000
Maximum value: $132,500+
The Riders brought in some big name American linebackers but Canadian Micah Teitz is the real top dog. The former Calgary Dino got a $12,500 signing bonus and will cash an identical cheque once he reports for training camp.
Teitz will receive $750 every time he plays more than 51 percent of defensive snaps, with a $1,000 incentive for being a West all-star, $1,500 for being a CFL all-star, and $2,000 if he wins Most Outstanding Player. Teitz will also collect $1,000 if he lead the Riders in special teams tackles and $1,500 if he leads the league, but his true max value can’t be accurately predicted due to a $100 bonus for every special teams tackle he makes.
9) Simoni Lawrence, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (A)
Hard money: $110,000
Maximum value: $164,000
The king of CFL trash talk has plenty to brag about when it comes to his new contract. Lawrence will get a $40,000 first time active roster bonus, with a $1,000 bonus for being an East All-Star and $3,000 if he makes the CFL team. Should Lawrence be named the East nominee for Most Outstanding Defensive Player for a third straight season, he’ll collect $5,000, with and equivalent bonus for finally winning a league award.
10) Darnell Sankey, Saskatchewan Roughriders (A)
Hard money: $110,000
Maximum value: $118,000
Leading the CFL in tackles last season got Sankey a $12,000 signing bonus in free agency, with $1,000 incentives for topping that statistical category again and for being tops on the Riders. He’ll receive another $1,000 if he’s a divisional all-star, $2,000 for being a CFL all-star, and $3,000 if he wins Most Outstanding Player.
11) Bo Lokombo, B.C. Lions (N)
Hard money: $107,500
Maximum value: $127,500
The reigning Most Outstanding Canadian is a relative steal on the second year of his deal in B.C. compared other top national linebackers, but should collect the entire value of his contract. Lokombo will max out after playing his first defensive snap, collecting a $20,000 active roster bonus.
12) Jovan Santos-Knox, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (A)
Hard money: $105,000
Maximum value: $118,500
Lawrence’s running mate makes the Ticats the only team with two Americans on this list, as Santos-Knox received a $10,000 signing bonus and will be paid another $5,000 once he makes the active roster. He can get another $2,500 for playing six games, with a $1,000 bonus for being a divisional all-star, $2,000 if he’s named a CFL all-star, and $3,000 for winning any league award.
13) Adam Konar, Edmonton Elks (N)
Hard money: $95,000
Maximum value: $117,000
A name you might not expect to see on this list, Chris Jones paid handsomely to bring back a player he coached as a rookie the last time he was in Edmonton. Konar will get $15,000 for playing his first game and another $1,000 if he leads the Elks in special teams tackles. He’ll collect $1,000 bonuses for being his team’s Most Outstanding Player or a West all-star, with a $2,000 pay day for league honours in either category.
14) Deon Lacey, Edmonton Elks (A)
Hard money: $90,000
Maximum value: $111,500
A huge value signing for the Elks, Lacey reunited with Chris Jones without a signing bonus and has $555.55 per game riding on playing more than 51 percent of the defensive snaps. The Elks will pay him $3,000 if he leads the CFL in defensive tackles or in special teams tackles, with $1,500 for being a divisional all-star and $2,000 if he’s a CFL all-star or league MOP.
15) Tyrice Beverette, Montreal Alouettes (A)
Hard money: $87,500
Maximum value: $92,900
Other players, like Saskatchewan’s Larry Dean, can earn more on the max value of their contracts, but special teams demon Tyrice Beverette sneaks onto this list after receiving a $5,500 signing bonus from Montreal. He isn’t a lock to start, but can receive another $300 for every game he plays at least 51 percent of the defensive snaps.
Editor’s note: 3DownNation was unable to source Nyles Morgan’s contract extension with Edmonton, which might have appeared at the tail end of this list.