The CFL’s 10 highest-paid linebackers for the 2024 season

Photo: Reuben Polansky/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

A good linebacker can make or break your defence. They are the beating heart of the whole operation, the field general and the playmaker, and the very best don’t come cheap.

Over the last week, 3DownNation has unveiled the CFL’s highest-paid players from each position group. We’ve already covered quarterbacksrunning backsfullbacks, receivers, offensive linemen, and defensive linemen. Don’t forget to check back on Monday for the defensive backs.

“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) Wynton McManis, Toronto Argonauts (A)

Hard money: $206,500
Maximum value: $207,500

After two straight all-star seasons with the Double Blue, McManis’ new deal this offseason netted him a $76,000 signing bonus. The 29-year-old will also collect $96,200 in salary, $13,800 in housing, and $15,000 for non-football-related services, with a $1,000 bonus if he earns a third consecutive all-star nod.

2) Tyrice Beverette, Montreal Alouettes (A)

Hard money: $190,000
Maximum value: $190,000

Beverette picked up a $65,000 signing bonus as part of his deal this past offseason and will collect $83,200 worth of salary. The 29-year-old stalwart also has $10,000 coming once he reports to training camp, plus $13,800 in housing, $15,000 in marketing money, and a $3,000 travel allotment.

Photo: Larry MacDougal/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

3) Cam Judge, Calgary Stampeders (N)

Hard money: $179,000
Maximum value: $190,000

The going rate for the CFL’s premiere ratio-breaker at weakside linebacker is $115,200 in salary, plus a hefty $40,000 offseason bonus cashed on January 15. The 29-year-old Judge will also collect $13,800 for housing and another $10,000 in marketing money, with playtime bonuses of $2,500 at the 14 and 16 game marks. He also has up to $6,000 in all-star and award incentives, with $1,000 for each divisional honour and $2,00 at the league level.

4) Jameer Thurman, Saskatchewan Roughriders (A)

Hard money: $177,000
Maximum value: $182,000

The Riders gave Thurman a $45,000 signing bonus this offseason to make him the new leader of their defence, putting forth an offer that included $106,500 in salary, $13,500 in housing, and a $7,000 travel allowance. The 29-year-old also has $5,000 of non-football-related services in his contract, with bonuses of $1,000 for a divisional all-star selection and $2,000 for both a league all-star or major award win.

5) Darnell Sankey, Montreal Alouettes (A)

Hard money: $165,000
Maximum value: $171,000

Sankey was one of the key late-season additions that led to a Grey Cup victory for Montreal in 2023 and he was rewarded with a new deal that included a $45,000 signing bonus and $84,200 in salary. The 29-year-old will collect another $15,000 when he reports to training camp and is also entitled to $13,800 in housing, $5,000 in marketing money, and a $2,000 travel allowance. He’ll add incremental bonuses of $1,000, $2,000, and $3,000 for all-star selections or a major award win.

Photo: Neil Noonan/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

6) Adam Bighill, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (A)

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

Entering the 14th year of his professional career, it is clear that Bighill values simplicity with the entirety of his expected earnings tied up in salary. Being a three-time Most Outstanding Defensive Player and the elder statesman of the position does have certain perks though, as the 35-year-old has 15 percent of his deal fully guaranteed — an amount which equals $24,750.

7) Bo Lokombo, B.C. Lions (N)

Hard money: $144,800
Maximum value: $147,800

Lokombo renegotiated his deal in January but the 33-year-old is still making bank, with an $91,500 salary and a $20,000 offseason bonus that cleared on February 1. He is also entitled to $13,800 in housing and $17,500 in marketing money, with bonuses of $2,000 for a CFL all-star selection and $3,000 for a Most Outstanding award.

8) Jovan Santos-Knox, Ottawa Redblacks (A)

Hard money: $139,700
Maximum value: $145,700

Santos-Knox has one of the lowest salaries of any player on this list at $75,000 but collected a $45,000 signing bonus when he redid his deal in April. The 29-year-old is set to receive $14,700 in housing and another $5,000 in marketing money, with bonuses of $1,000 for leading the division in defensive tackles, $2,000 for leading the league, and $3,000 for a major award.

Photo courtesy: Steven Chang/B.C. Lions

9) Ben Hladik, B.C. Lions (N)

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

Hladik is no longer the only member of his family to be cashing a CFL paycheque but he will still have the largest one for some time, cashing in on a new deal with $86,200 in salary and a $25,000 signing bonus. The 25-year-old will also receive $13,800 in housing and $10,000 worth of non-football-related compensation, with standard all-star and award bonuses totalling a maximum of $6,000.

10) Nyles Morgan, Edmonton Elks (A)

Hard money: $125,000
Maximum value: $136,000

Morgan isn’t owed a cent by the Elks until he reports to training camp, where he’ll earn $26,000 when he passes his physical. The 27-year-old will collect a $75,000 salary this season, as well as $13,800 in housing and $10,200 in marketing money. He’ll also earn $277.78 every time he plays more than 51 percent of the defensive plays in a game, with up to $6,000 in standard all-star and award bonuses.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect new information regarding Montreal Alouettes’ linebacker Tyrice Beverette’s contract. Adam Auclair of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who is set to earn $118,500 in hard money, has been bumped off the list as a result.