The CFL is a special teams-heavy league and if you want the game’s third-phase to be an advantage for your team, you’ll have to pay for it.
We have reached the final day of our series unveiling the CFL’s highest-paid players at each positional group. We’ve already published the quarterbacks, running backs and fullbacks, receivers, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, and defensive backs lists. Now, we’ll wrap it up with the kickers and returners.
Please note that only players who primarily serve as return specialists have been included on this list as players who also start at running back, receiver or defensive back have already appeared on other lists.
“Hard money” is a slang term used to refer to any portion of a contract that is paid even if a player suffers an injury during the season. This includes salary, signing bonuses, housing money, workout bonuses, travel allowances, off-season roster bonuses, and report-and-pass bonuses.
Any additional portions of the contract — often referred to as “playtime” — are outlined in part or in full in the paragraph accompanying each player. These bonuses are often tied to how much a players sees the field, their yardage production, how many touchdowns they score, whether or not they’re named an all-star or whether or not they win a league award.
Please note that “N” denotes national players (ie. Canadians) and “A” denotes American players. All contract figures have been rounded to the nearest thousand dollars.
Kickers and punters
1) Brett Lauther, Saskatchewan Roughriders (N)
Hard money: $130,000
Maximum value: $136,000
The native of Truro, N.S. collected a $25,000 off-season roster bonus on Feb. 1 and will earn another $23,000 the first time he sees the field come the regular season. Lauther will also receive a $1,000 bonus if he’s named a divisional all-star and $2,000 if he’s named a league all-star.
2) Sean Whyte, B.C. Lions (N)
Hard money: $130,000
Maximum value: $133,000
The native of White Rock, B.C. received a $30,000 signing bonus to remain with his hometown team along with $12,000 in housing money. The 37-year-old connected on 92.3 percent of his field goal attempts last season along with 98.2 percent of his one-point convert attempts.
3) Sergio Castillo, Edmonton Elks (A)
Hard money: $123,000
Maximum value: $146,000
The 32-year-old got a $30,000 signing bonus to ink a fresh deal with the Elks that also includes a $3,000 travel allowance. Castillo will also earn $556 each time he performs all of Edmonton’s kicking and punting duties in a game this season.
4) Boris Bede, Toronto Argonauts (A)
Hard money: $120,000
Maximum value: $138,000
The Laval product got a $20,000 signing bonus to return for a third season in Toronto and will earn $556 each time he performs all of Toronto’s kicking and punting duties in a game. He will also collect a $5,000 bonus if he finishes top three in field goal percentage this season (min. 30 attempts).
5) Lewis Ward, Ottawa Redblacks (N)
Hard money: $115,000
Maximum value: $126,000
The Ottawa product got a $10,000 signing bonus to remain with the Redblacks in 2023 and will earn another $5,000 in non-football-related services to the club. He will also earn $250 each time he attempts all of his team’s field goals in a game.
6) René Paredes, Calgary Stampeders (N)
Hard money: $100,000
Maximum value: $111,000
The five-time CFL all-star is a bargain for the Stampeders with most of his earnings coming in the form of a $90,000 salary. His contract also includes a $250 bonus each time he performs all of Calgary’s kicking and punting duties in a contest as well as four tickets to every home game.
7) Richie Leone, Ottawa Redblacks (A)
Hard money: $90,000
Maximum value: $116,000
The six-year CFL veteran got a $13,000 signing bonus to rejoin the Redblacks this season and will collect $1,000 if he leads the East Division in net punting and $2,000 if he leads the league in net punting. Leone will also make $500 each time he kicks all of Ottawa’s field goal attempts in a game.
8) David Côté, Montreal Alouettes (N)
Hard money: $89,000
Maximum value: $93,000
The Laval product got a $5,000 signing bonus to ink an extension with the Alouettes tying him to the team through 2024. He will also receive $1,500 if he’s named an East Division all-star and $2,000 if he’s named a CFL all-star.
9) Stefan Flintoft, B.C. Lions (A)
Hard money: $82,000
Maximum value: $90,000
The 27-year-old will collect a $70,000 salary as well as $12,000 in housing money. He will also earn a $1,500 bonus if he leads the CFL in kickoff average (min. 40 attempts) and another $1,500 bonus if he leads the league in net punting average (min. 60 attempts).
10) Marc Liegghio, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (N)
Hard money: $74,500
Maximum value: $80,000
The Western product is entering the final year of his rookie deal, which means he’s due a league-minimum salary of $70,000 along with $4,500 of housing money. He will also earn $278 each time he performs more than 51 percent of Winnipeg’s punts or kickoffs and field goals in a game, which accomplished in all 18 regular season games last year.
1) Chandler Worthy, Montreal Alouettes (A)
Hard money: $127,000
Maximum value: $155,000
The reigning East Division all-star got a $25,000 signing bonus to remain with the Als this season and will collect another $10,000 when he reports to training camp and passes his physical. The 29-year-old will also collect a $2,500 bonus if he dresses for seven games and another $2,500 if he dresses for 14 games.
2) DeVonte Dedmon, Ottawa Redblacks (A)
Hard money: $127,000
Maximum value: $153,000
The award-winning speedster got a $25,000 signing bonus to remain in the nation’s capital and will receive $2,500 if he dresses for seven games and another $2,500 if he dresses for 14 games. Dedmon will also earn a $500 bonus each time he plays more than 51 percent of Ottawa’s offensive snaps in a game.
3) Mario Alford, Saskatchewan Roughriders (A)
Hard money: $115,000
Maximum value: $123,000
The CFL’s reigning Most Outstanding Special Teams Player got a $20,000 signing bonus to remain in Regina along with a $2,000 travel allowance. Alford will also earn $2,000 if he dresses for nine games, another $2,000 if he dresses for 12 games, and another $2,000 if he dresses for 15 games. The 31-year-old has had trouble staying healthy in past seasons but should earn more beyond this year provided he can avoid injury.
4) Janarion Grant, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (A)
Hard money: $111,000
Maximum value: $115,000
The Rutgers product returned punts for touchdowns in each of Winnipeg’s two playoff games last year, earning a $27,000 signing bonus on his new deal. He will also collect a $3,200 bonus if he makes the active roster for a minimum of 12 games.
Editor’s note: Brett Lauther’s contract was updated following the publishing this article with his “hard money” total increasing from $118,000 to $130,000.