Strong-side linebacker is one of the toughest positions in Canadian football because it requires players to be extremely versatile.
Rush the passer? Check. Stop the run? Check. Play man? Check. Cover in space? Check. A lot of strong-side linebackers even play special teams to boot.
Below we’ve listed what ten strong-side linebackers are slated to earn during the 2022 season. It remains to be seen exactly who will start at the position come the start of the regular season — training camps exist for a reason — but these are reasonable projections for who will be in the starting lineup come Week 1.
“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) Derrick Moncrief, Saskatchewan Roughriders (A)
Hard money: $140,000
Maximum value: $164,000
The former CFL all-star got a $25,000 signing bonus to join the Riders in free agency and will get another $10,000 the first time he makes the active roster. Moncrief will receive a $1,000 bonus if he leads the team in tackles, a $2,000 bonus if he leads the West Division in tackles, and a $3,000 bonus if he leads the league in tackles.
2) Chris Edwards, Toronto Argonauts (A)
Hard money: $125,000
Maximum value: $130,000
The reigning CFL all-star got a $20,000 signing bonus to re-sign with the Double Blue and will collect another $10,000 if he reports to training camp and passes his physical. Edwards will also receive $5,000 the first time he makes the active roster and dresses for one play, which could take a while considering he’s facing a six-game suspension.
3) Patrick Levels, Ottawa Redblacks (A)
Hard money: $120,000
Maximum value: $136,000
The 27-year-old received a $20,000 signing bonus to join Ottawa in free agency and will make another $10,000 the first time he makes the active roster. Levels will also receive a $1,000 bonus if he’s named an East Division all-star, a $2,000 bonus if he’s named a CFL all-star, and a $3,000 bonus if he wins a year-end league award.
4) Loucheiz Purifoy, B.C. Lions (A)
Hard money: $110,000
Maximum value: $146,000
The 29-year-old was Saskatchewan’s nominee for Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 2021 after recording 42 total tackles and two interceptions at field-side halfback. He collected a $30,000 signing bonus to join the Lions in free agency and will receive another $20,000 the first time he makes the active roster.
5) Godfrey Onyeka, Saskatchewan Roughriders (N)
Hard money: $90,000
Maximum value: $117,300
The Wilfrid Laurier product got a $10,000 signing bonus to re-up with Saskatchewan and will get a $2,500 bonus when he reaches the milestones of six games, nine games, and twelve games played. He will also receive $850 each time he plays more than half of Saskatchewan’s defensive snaps in a game.
6) Branden Dozier, Calgary Stampeders (A)
Hard money: $87,000
Maximum value: $106,000
The four-year veteran was solid for the Stamps last season, recording 49 defensive tackles, 17 special teams tackles, one sack, and one interception. He received a $10,000 signing bonus to re-sign with Calgary and will collect another $5,000 bonus the first time he makes the active roster in 2022.
7) Najee Murray, Montreal Alouettes (A)
Hard money: $87,000
Maximum value: $91,000
Murray started at strong-side linebacker while Patrick Levels was hurt in 2021, so it stands to reason that he’ll have the inside track to start this upcoming season for Montreal. He’ll receive a $1,500 bonus if he’s named an East Division all-star as well as a $2,500 bonus if he’s named a CFL all-star.
8) Alden Darby, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (A)
Hard money: $85,000
Maximum value: $107,000
The reigning West Division all-star receives a $10,000 bonus the first time he makes the active roster with the Ticats as well as a $3,000 travel allowance. Darby will also earn $1,000 if he leads the team in interceptions, $2,000 if he leads the East Division in interceptions, and $3,000 if he leads the CFL in interceptions.
9) Mercy Maston, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (A)
Hard money: $77,000
Maximum value: $95,000
Maston missed the entire 2021 season due to a torn Achilles but is expected to return for the 2022 season. He will receive a $5,000 bonus the first time he makes the active roster, a $4,000 bonus if he dresses for at least nine games, and a $500 bonus each time he plays more than half of Winnipeg’s defensive snaps in a game.
10) Kam Kelly, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (A)
Hard money: $69,500
Maximum value: $78,500
The six-foot-two, 205-pound cover man won the starting strong-side linebacker job in Hamilton as a rookie in 2021 and made 36 tackles, one sack, and one interception. Kelly will earn a $1,000 bonus if he leads the East Division in interceptions as well as a $2,000 bonus if he leads the CFL in interceptions.
11) Matt Elam, Edmonton Elks (A)
Hard money: $65,000
Maximum value: $65,000
The five-foot-ten, 208-pound defender played strong-side linebacker under Chris Jones in Saskatchewan, so it’s reasonable to assume he’ll play the same position in Edmonton. He is set to make a league-minimum $65,000 after spending the last two seasons in the XFL and Indoor Football League.