When CFL teams go through the process of evaluating talent and building their rosters it is important to remember that all CFL teams work within similar parameters. Each team has a salary cap of 5.35 million dollars, they have to manage the Roster Ratio rule, and they have to maintain an active roster of 45 players. How teams acquire and manage talent is unique to each team that their team management.
The strategy a CFL team’s front office utilizes can go a long way to determining if a team is a championship contender or is a team that is building for the future. When analyzing each team and how they manage the salary cap and their roster, some trends are consistent in the league concerning building championship teams.
We are going to take a look at how each team approached this dynamic situation in the 2022 season, and that will allow us to see why some teams are successful while others are always chasing success.
Western Division Champion – Winnipeg Blue Bombers
The highest-paid player for the Blue Bombers is two-time CFL champion quarterback Zach Collaros. Winnipeg paid Collaros $550,000 to be the leader of their offence in 2022. The rest of the remaining portion of their salary cap was spent on 57 players listed on their roster allowing each of those players to make an average of $85,714 for the season. The result for the Blue Bombers was that they were one of the best teams in the CFL. Their roster has enough quality to play high-quality football while also having enough depth to overcome the injury challenges that all teams face in the CFL.
The Lions had a much different approach to building their 2022 roster compared to the Blue Bombers. The highest-paid player on the BC roster was Canadian quarterback Nathan Rourke with a salary of $71,500. This is a big reason that Rourke is looking for NFL opportunities. As a star quarterback in the CFL Rourke was paid a third of what he would make as a full-time practice roster player for an NFL team. The result was that Rourke played well above his salary, and the Lions will need to find a way to compete financially for his services. In addition to Rourke, the Lions had 76 other players on their roster with each making an average salary of $65,107. This allowed the Lions to have a deep roster for a cheap price in 2022, but this is not a model that they will maintain as they had several players that experienced breakout seasons.
The Stampeders had high hopes for the 2022 season but when looking at the roster, Calgary was betting on aging players and with hopes that roster depth would outperform roster quality. The highest-paid player for Calgary was quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell with a salary of $425,000 for the 2022 season, but Mitchell hit a physical wall and finished the season as a backup quarterback for the Stampeders. The Stampeders carried 80 other players on their roster for an average salary of $62,350. This showed that the Stampeders were compensating for potential injuries by packing their available roster with non-elite talent.
The Roughriders seem to approach roster building using a strategy similar to Calgary. Saskatchewan carried 78 players on their 2022 roster. The highest-paid player was quarterback Cody Fajardo who got paid $467,000 for the 2022 season. This resulted in the average Roughrider getting paid $64,250 for the season. This implies that the Roughriders were predicting injury issues, and felt the answer was to insulate their roster with a large number of average-quality players.
The Elks followed a similar roster strategy to the majority of the teams in the West division. The Elk’s highest-paid player was quarterback Nick Arbuckle which they paid $340,000 for the season, and they eventually traded Arbuckle to Ottawa. The rest of the Elks roster included 70 players and those players made an average of $71,571. So what the Elks roster lacked in quality they attempted to cover up with having a large of players to give them the illusion of roster depth.
Eastern Division/Grey Cup Champion – Toronto Argonauts
The Argos were another team that carried a high number of players with 82 players on their posted roster. The average salary of the Toronto players was $61,815 for the 2022 season. Their highest-paid player was quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and he was paid $400,000 for the 2022 season. This roster strategy did payoff for the Argonauts due to a large number of injury issues that Toronto had to manage all season. But with a large number of players available they had a large pool of players to plug and play in response to those injuries.
The Alouettes placed a large bet on Vernon Adams Jr. as their quarterback, paying him $399,000 for the season. But this bet did not pay off because before the mid-point of the season, Adams was traded and Trevor Harris was appointed as the starter for the rest of the season. Montreal carried 70 additional players on their roster, paying them an average of $71,750. This resulted in a chaotic season for the Alouettes that ultimately ended with them coming up short many times during the season, and in the East division final vs. Toronto.
The Tiger-Cats showed their confidence in quarterback Dane Evans heading to the 2022 season, naming him the uncontested starting quarterback and paying him $417,000 for the season. Evans ended up not living up to those expectations as he struggled to consistently run the offence, and struggled with turnover issues all season long. The rest of the Tiger-Cats roster was made up of 71 players with an average salary of $70,470. While it seems like Hamilton missed their shot at having a franchise quarterback with Evans, the remainder of their roster did seem to be functional, and allowed them to overcome injury issues and still make the 2022 playoffs.
The Redblacks took a shot at a championship in 2022, but they were the team that was most affected by injury issues. Ottawa’s highest-paid player was quarterback Jeremiah Masoli with a salary of $432,000 for the 2022 season. But Masoli ended up missing most of the season with a season-ending injury. The Redblack showed 44 players on their roster with each one making approximately $111,770, which would be the highest average for the season. Unfortunately for the Redblacks these investments did not payoff because they did not have the roster depth to overcome the wear and tear of a 21-week CFL season.
Follow me on Twitter: @AaronSauter7
Big Announcement: CFL Unveils Free Live Streaming Platforms
Get Alerts & Stay ConnectedCFL iPhone App
CFL Android App