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

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

Pound for pound, defensive backs are the most under-compensated players in the CFL. So if your team has a ballhawk who’s making bank, you know they are employing a difference maker.

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

“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) Adarius Pickett, Ottawa Redblacks (A)

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

The top strongside linebacker in the league cashed in when he flipped from Toronto to Ottawa this offseason, collecting a $50,000 signing bonus to go with $94,200 in salary. The 27-year-old will also earn $13,800 in housing, $5,000 in marketing money, and a $2,000 travel allowance, as well as the standard incentive package of $1,000 for a divisional all-star selection, $2,000 for a CFL all-star selection, and $3,000 for winning a major league award.

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

2) Marc-Antoine Dequoy, Montreal Alouettes (N)

Hard money: $153,000
Maximum value: $159,000

If buttoning down the backend for a Grey Cup run in his home province, Dequoy also tops the financial charts amongst safeties with a $108,000 salary and a $30,000 offseason bonus which went through on January 15. The 29-year-old can also earn up to $15,000 for non-football-related services, as well as standard all-star and awards incentives that top out at a combined $6,000.

3) Jamal Peters, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (A)

Hard money: $141,000
Maximum value: $155,500

Peters heads down the QEW to take his place as the league’s highest-paid cornerback, receiving a $40,000 signing bonus and $76,700 in salary. The 27-year-old is entitled to $13,800 in housing, $7,500 in promotional money, and a $3,000 training allowance. He’ll also take home $9,000 after playing his first game, as well as $1,000 for his first divisional all-star selection, $1,500 for a CFL all-star nod, and $3,000 for a major award.

4) Deatrick Nichols, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (A)

Hard money: $140,000
Maximum value: $154,000

The CFL’s most feared halfback collected a $50,000 signing bonus to re-up with Winnipeg, as well as $74,000 in salary, $13,800 for housing, and a $2,200 travel allowance. The 29-year-old will also earn $1,000 for either form of all-star selection and $2,000 for a divisional or league award, with the ability to cash in up to three times at each level.

5) Royce Metchie, Toronto Argonauts (N)

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

It may not be quite what his brother earns from the Houston Texans but the elder Metchie still makes good money with a $81,200 salary and a $25,000 bonus which came the day after signing his new deal. The 27-year-old safety is supposed to receive $15,000 for non-football-related services, $13,800 for housing, and $5,000 for travel.

Photo courtesy: Bob Butrym/RFB Sport Photography

6) Stavros Katsantonis, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (N)

Hard money: $135,500
Maximum value: $143,000

The Bakersfield Bandit’s greatest heist yet may be his new contract, which included a $36,000 signing bonus and a $75,200 salary. The 27-year-old safety’s first deal as a full-time starter also features $13,800 for housing, $7,500 in marketing money, and a $3,000 travel allowance. He’ll also earn $250 for every game on the active roster and bumps of $1,500 when he reaches two forced fumbles and four interceptions on the year.

7) Garry Peters, B.C. Lions (A)

Hard money: $135,000
Maximum value: $143,000

The Lions locked up their back-to-back all-star at cornerback with a $40,000 signing bonus and a $76,200 base salary. The 32-year-old is set to receive $13,800 in housing, $3,000 in marketing money, and a $2,000 travel allowance, plus $5,000 for a third CFL all-star selection and $3,000 for being named Most Outstanding Defensive Player.

8) DaShaun Amos, Toronto Argonauts (A)

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

Amos hasn’t been an all-star at halfback since 2019 but still commands elite dollars with a $99,200 salary and $15,000 offseason bonus that cashed on January 1. The 29-year-old will also take home $13,800 for housing, $5,000 for non-football-related services, and $2,000 for travel.

9) Wesley Sutton, Montreal Alouettes (A)

Hard money: $130,000
Maximum value: $137,000

After consecutive East Division all-star nods at halfback, Sutton will take home $114,200 in salary next year, of which $30,000 is fully guaranteed. The 28-year-old will also get $13,800 for housing and $2,000 in marketing money, with $1,500 for a divisional all-star selection or award nomination and $2,000 for the corresponding honours at the league level.

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

10) Demerio Houston, Calgary Stampeders (A)

Hard money: $128,800
Maximum value: $136,800

The CFL’s leader in interceptions last season collected a $40,000 signing bonus to join the Stampeders and will receive $70,000 in salary next year. The 27-year-old cornerback will receive $13,800 for housing and $5,000 for promotional appearances, along with incentives of $1,000 for divisional all-star honours or a team award and $2,000 for the league equivalents. He’ll also get $2,000 if he repeats as the interception king.

11) Marcus Sayles, B.C. Lions (A)

Hard money: $127,800
Maximum value: $143,800

While some speculated that the two-time all-star halfback took a step back in 2023, the Lions showed they still value Sayles highly with a $94,000 salary and a $10,000 offseason bonus. The 29-year-old will get $13,800 for housing and $10,000 for non-football-related services, along with $10,000 after his first game and up to $6,000 in standard all-star and awards incentives.

12) Loucheiz Purifoy, Edmonton Elks (A)

Hard money: $125,000
Maximum value: $139,000

You can never be sure where Purifoy is going to suit up in a given season, having played strongside linebacker, safety, halfback and corner at various points in his career, but versatility is part of what makes him worth his $85,200 salary. The 31-year-old received a $25,000 signing bonus to stay in Edmonton, while getting $13,800 for housing and $6,000 in marketing money. He’ll also get $500 for every game he plays over 51 percent of defensive snaps, $2,000 for a CFL all-star selection, and $3,000 for a major award win.

13) Redha Kramdi, Winnipeg Blue Bombers (N)

Hard money: $125,000
Maximum value: $139,000

A rare Canadian starter at strongside linebacker, Kramdi’s unicorn status is reflected in his $86,200 salary and $25,000 signing bonus. The 27-year-old is also entitled to $13,800 for housing, as well as $1,000 for either form of all-star selection and $2,000 for a divisional or league award, with the ability to cash in up to three times at each level.

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

14) Rolan Milligan, Saskatchewan Roughriders (A)

Hard money: $122,500
Maximum value: $135,500

Milligan was limited to just four games last season due to injury, but the Riders still gave him a $25,000 signing bonus and $80,000 salary to stick around. The 29-year-old halfback will get $13,500 for housing, $2,000 for travel, and $2,000 in marketing money, plus $5,000 after his first game. He also has up to $6,000 in standard all-star and award incentives, as well $1,000 for leading Saskatchewan in interceptions or special teams tackles.

15) Brandin Dandridge, Ottawa Redblacks (A)

Hard money: $122,000
Maximum value: $122,000

Dandridge was an East Division all-star in 2023 after doing it all for Redblacks and was rewarded with a lucrative new contract that is all hard money. The 27-year-old cornerback intercepted five passes and took two back for touchdowns, while also housing a punt return.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.