The CFL’s fifteen highest-paid defensive backs

Photo courtesy: Ryan McCullough/Hamilton Tiger-Cats

The CFL is a passing league, which means it’s essential to have a quality secondary to shut down opposing receivers. Below we’ve ranked the CFL’s fifteen highest-paid defensive backs, many of whom are perennial all-stars.

“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) Tunde Adeleke, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (N)

Hard money: $161,000
Maximum value: $179,000

The 26-year-old received a $15,000 signing bonus after showing his ability to start at both safety and field-side halfback this past season. He will also collect a $1,000 bonus if he is named an East Division all-star, a $2,000 bonus if he is named a CFL all-star, and a $3,000 bonus if he wins a year-end award at the league level.

2) Royce Metchie, Toronto Argonauts (N)

Hard money: $150,000
Maximum value: $150,000

The Guelph product received a $30,000 signing bonus to ink a deal with the Boatmen after being acquired via trade from the Stampeders. He will also receive a $5,000 training allowance as well as a $2,000 travel allowance from Toronto.

3) Aaron Grymes, Edmonton Elks (A)

Hard money: $135,000
Maximum value: $151,000

The 31-year-old received a $22,000 signing bonus to extend his contract with the Elks, though it counted against last year’s cap as it was signed in December. He received a $20,000 off-season roster bonuses in January and will collect $10,000 if he is named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 2022.

4) T.J. Lee, B.C. Lions (A)

Hard money: $130,000
Maximum value: $140,000

The seven-year veteran received a $30,000 signing bonus to extend his contract with the Lions and will also receive a $5,000 bonus if he is named a West Division all-star. The 31-year-old had another strong season in 2021, recording 83 total tackles, four interceptions, and one forced fumble.

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

5) Winston Rose, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (A)

Hard money: $125,000
Maximum value: $125,000

The former CFL all-star rejoined the Blue Bombers for another Grey Cup run in 2021 following a stint with the Cincinnati Bengals. Rose will also receive a $5,000 travel allowance as he looks to help Winnipeg win a third-straight championship.

6) Mike Edem, Saskatchewan Roughriders (N)

Hard money: $120,000
Maximum value: $128,000

The eight-year veteran received a $12,500 signing bonus to return for a fifth season in Riderville. He will earn a $1,000 bonus if he’s named a West Division all-star, a $2,000 bonus if he’s named a CFL all-star, and $200 each time he makes a special teams tackle.

7) Money Hunter, Ottawa Redblacks (A)

Hard money: $117,500
Maximum value: $136,500

Hunter received a $15,000 signing bonus to join Ottawa in free agency and will get another $10,000 the first time he makes the active roster. He will collect a $1,000 bonus if he leads the East Division in interceptions and a $2,000 bonus if he leads the CFL in interceptions this upcoming season.

8) Jumal Rolle, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (A)

Hard money: $117,000
Maximum value: $126,000

The 31-year-old won Hamilton’s boundary cornerback spot in 2021 and got a $10,000 signing bonus to re-sign for the 2022 season. He 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 win a year-end league award.

9) DaShaun Amos, Toronto Argonauts (A)

Hard money: $117,000
Maximum value: $117,000

The 27-year-old got a $15,000 signing bonus to depart Calgary in free agency after recording 32 total tackles and a forced fumble in 2021. He will look to make an impact with his brother, D’Angelo Amos, who signed with the Argos as a free agent earlier this month.

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

10) Nick Marshall, Saskatchewan Roughriders (A)

Hard money: $115,000
Maximum value: $120,500

The six-foot-one, 207-pound cover man got a $20,000 signing bonus to return for a fourth season in Riderville. Marshall will receive a $1,500 bonus if he is named a West Division all-star as well as a $2,000 bonus if he is named a CFL all-star.

11) Tre Roberson, Calgary Stampeders (A)

Hard money: $114,000
Maximum value: $134,000

The former CFL all-star returned to the Stampeders following a stint in the NFL with the Chicago Bears. He got a $35,000 bonus to re-sign for the 2022 season, will collect a $5,000 bonus the first time he takes a snap, and $500 each time he dresses for a game and is on the field for at least one play.

12) Delvin Breaux, B.C. Lions (A)

Hard money: $105,000
Maximum value: $140,000

The former CFL all-star got a $20,000 signing bonus to come out of retirement and will receive another $15,000 the first time he makes the active roster. Breaux will also earn $555 each time he plays more than half of B.C.’s defensive snaps in a game as well as $3,000 if he wins a year-end league award.

13) Cariel Brooks, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (A)

Hard money: $108,000
Maximum value: $129,000

The four-year veteran was named a CFL all-star for the first time in 2021 and was rewarded with a $20,000 signing bonus on his contract for 2022. He will also collect $10,000 the first time he makes the active roster as well as $1,000 if he leads the West Division in interceptions and $2,000 if he leads the league in interceptions.

14) Jordan Hoover, Edmonton Elks (N)

Hard money: $104,000
Maximum value: $125,000

The Waterloo product started twelve games at safety in 2021 and got a $15,000 signing bonus to re-sign with Edmonton for 2022. He will receive $5,000 for reporting to training camp and passing his physical as well as $500 each time he plays more than half of the Elks’ defensive snaps in a game.

Photo courtesy: Ticats.ca

T-15) Ciante Evans, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (A)

Hard money: $100,000
Maximum value: $110,500

The 29-year-old will receive a $15,000 bonus when he reports to training camp and passes his physical. He will also receive a $1,000 bonus if he is named an East Division all-star, a $2,000 bonus if he is named a CFL all-star, and $250 each time he plays more than half of Hamilton’s defensive snaps in a game.

T-15) Mike Jones, Montreal Alouettes (A)

Hard money: $100,000
Maximum value: $106,500

The former Blue Bombers’ cover man received a $13,000 signing bonus to join the Als in free agency. He will receive $500 each time he plays more than half of Montreal’s defensive snaps in a game as well as $1,000 if he is named a West Division all-star and $2,000 if he is named an East Division all-star.

Editor’s note: 3DownNation was unable to source the contracts of Greg Reid and Marcus Sayles who may have otherwise appeared on this list.

John Hodge is a CFL insider and draft analyst who has been covering the league since 2014.