The CFL’s 15 highest-paid defensive linemen for the 2024 season

Photo: Matt Johnson/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Disrupting opposing offences is key to winning CFL games consistently and it’s almost impossible to do so without quality players along the defensive line who can press gaps, rush the passer, execute stunts, and do so for a full 60 minutes.

Over the next week, 3DownNation will be unveiling the CFL’s highest-paid players from each position group. We’ve already covered quarterbacksrunning backs, fullbacks, receivers, and offensive linemen, so don’t forget to check back on Sunday for the linebackers.

“Hard money” is a CFL term that refers to any portion of a contract that is paid even if a player is hurt. This includes base salary, signing bonuses, roster bonuses, housing allowances, travel allowances, and training allowances. Marketing money, which is officially called “non-football-related services,” isn’t always guaranteed, though we’ve decided to include it in hard money for this series.

Any additional components — often referred to as “playtime” or “performance incentives” — are outlined in part or in full in the paragraph accompanying each player. These bonuses are often tied to how much a player sees the field, produces yardage, scores a touchdown, makes tackles, or whether or not they’re named an all-star.

“N” denotes National players (ie. Canadians) and “A” denotes American players.

1) Folarin Orimolade, Toronto Argonauts (A)

Hard money: $240,000
Maximum value: $240,000

The 28-year-old reached 10 sacks for the first time this past season and collected a $100,000 signing bonus to extend with the Argonauts through 2025. The five-foot-eleven, 238-pound native of Washington, D.C. will also earn $102,200 in salary, $20,000 in non-football-related services, $13,800 in housing money, and $4,000 in travel.

2) Jake Ceresna, Toronto Argonauts (A)

Hard money: $210,000
Maximum value: $222,500

The former CFL all-star collected a $100,000 signing bonus when he renegotiated his contract with the Argonauts in January. Ceresna will also earn $71,200 in salary, $15,000 in non-football-related services to the team, $13,800 in housing, $5,000 in travel, $5,000 in training, and $7,500 if he leads the league in sacks.

3) Mike Rose, Calgary Stampeders (A)

Hard money: $200,000
Maximum value: $206,000

The three-time CFL all-star made a career-high 11 sacks this past season and cashed in with a $37,000 signing bonus to return for a seventh season in Cowtown. Rose will also collect $136,200 in salary, $13,800 in housing, $8,000 in non-football-related services, $5,000 in travel money, and up to $6,000 in all-star and awards incentives.

4) Willie Jefferson, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (A)

Hard money: $200,000
Maximum value: $200,000

The six-time all-star got a $100,000 signing bonus to return for a fifth season in Bomberland after recording 11 sacks in 2023, his highest total since 2019. The 33-year-old native of Beaumont, Texas will also make $78,200 in salary, $13,800 in housing, and an $8,000 travel allowance.

5) Mustafa Johnson, Montreal Alouettes (A)

Hard money: $200,000
Maximum value: $200,000

The 25-year-old was named an East Division all-star for the first time in his career this past season after making 43 defensive tackles and seven sacks over 18 regular season games. The six-foot, 290-pound native of Aurora, Co. earned a $65,000 signing bonus and will also collect $128,200 in salary, $13,800 in housing, $10,000 for passing his physical at training camp, $15,000 in non-football-related services, and $3,000 in travel.

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

6) Casey Sayles, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (A)

Hard money: $183,000
Maximum value: $183,000

The six-foot-four, 282-pound defender was named a CFL all-star this past season after setting career-highs in tackles and sacks. He earned a $60,000 signing bonus as part of an extension he signed through 2025 this off-season and will also make $96,200 in salary, $13,800 in housing, $10,000 in non-football-related services, and $3,000 in travel.

7) Dewayne Hendrix, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (A)

Hard money: $181,000
Maximum value: $195,000

The Pittsburgh product recorded a career-high six sacks last season with the Argonauts this past season and got a $40,000 signing bonus to change sides in the Battle of Ontario. Hendrix will also make $122,200 in salary, $13,800 in housing, $5,000 in non-football-related services, $500 each time he plays more than half of Hamilton’s defensive snaps in a game, and up to $5,000 in sack incentives.

8) Brandon Barlow, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (A)

Hard money: $180,900
Maximum value: $204,900

The 26-year-old made nine sacks as a rotational edge rusher with Toronto last season and received a $60,000 signing bonus to join their arch-rivals in free agency. Barlow will also make $97,100 in salary, $13,800 in housing, $500 each time he plays more than half of Hamilton’s defensive snaps in a game, and up to $15,000 in sack incentives. His incentives will increase in the second year of his deal in 2025.

9) Anthony Lanier II, Saskatchewan Roughriders (A)

Hard money: $176,000
Maximum value: $181,000

The 31-year-old took a pay cut after earning $250,000 with Saskatchewan in 2023 as his sack total fell from eight to five. Lanier got a $50,000 signing bonus to return to Riderville for a fourth season and will also make $100,000 in salary, $13,500 in housing, $7,500 in non-football-related services, and a $5,000 travel allowance.

Photo courtesy: Steven Chang/B.C. Lions

10) James Vaughters, Calgary Stampeders (A)

Hard money: $171,000
Maximum value: $177,000

The 30-year-old made five sacks and two forced fumbles over six games in return to the CFL following a four-year run in the NFL but suffered a season-ending injury. He collected a $35,000 signing bonus to return to the Stampeders in 2024 and will also make $109,200 in salary, an $8,000 training allowance, and up to $6,000 in all-star and awards incentives.

11) Lorenzo Mauldin IV, Ottawa Redblacks (A)

Hard money: $170,000
Maximum value: $179,000

The league’s former Most Outstanding Defensive Player had a down year in 2023 as his sack total fell from 17 to five. He got a $40,000 signing bonus to return to the nation’s capital and will also make $111,200 in salary, $13,800 in housing, $5,000 in non-football-related services, and $9,000 in all-star, awards, and statistical incentives.

12) Robbie Smith, Toronto Argonauts (N)

Hard money: $165,000
Maximum value: $175,000

The native of Brampton, Ont. set new career-highs in defensive tackles, special teams tackles, and sacks this past season, his fourth in Toronto. Smith received a $20,000 roster bonus on Feb. 1 and will make another $121,200 in salary, $10,000 in non-football-related services to the team, and $2,500 in he leads the team in sacks this season.

13) Bryce Carter, Ottawa Redblacks (A)

Hard money: $165,000
Maximum value: $174,000

The 26-year-old had a breakout season in 2023, recording 31 defensive tackles, 12 sacks, and two forced fumbles to be named an East Division all-star. Carter received a $40,000 signing bonus to sign a one-year contract extension and will also earn $106,200 in salary, $5,000 in non-football-related services, and up to $9,000 in all-star and awards incentives.

14) Cleyon Laing, Ottawa Redblacks (N)

Hard money: $154,500
Maximum value: $177,000

The four-time East Division all-star will earn $20,000 when he reports to training camp and passes his physical and another $118,700 in salary, $30,000 of which is guaranteed. The two-time Grey Cup champion will also make $13,800 in housing, $2,000 in travel, and $750 each time he plays more than half the team’s defensive snaps in a game.

15) Cameron Lawson, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (N)

Hard money: $135,000
Maximum value: $141,000

The former second-round pick was productive in a rotational role this past season as he made five sacks and one interception despite starting only one game. The Queen’s University product got a $25,000 signing bonus to extend his stay in Bomberland through 2025 and will also make $91,200 in salary, $13,800 in housing, and $5,000 in non-football-related services to the club.

Editor’s note: there was initially a miscalculation with Mustafa Johnson’s contract, which has since been corrected.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.