The Canadian Football League was founded in 1958 and has experienced great interest from fans all over Canada. Teams are still building new stadiums and expanding seating to accommodate a growing fan base. The CFL players are highly regarding athletes in Canada and make great salaries.
CFL Salary Caps
The CFL employs a very strict and transparent salary cap structure. Each team is allowed (as of 2011) a payroll of $4,300,000. This total is only a fraction of what some NFL players make in a season but allows teams the means to hire excellent players. Each team is required to fully and accurately disclose player salaries. The CFL doles out strict penalties for teams that do not abide by the $4.3 million dollar cap.
Salary Cap Penalties
For excess salary up to $100,000, the team is penalized dollar for dollar. This means that for every dollar they go over the cap (up to $100K) they have to surrender a penalty dollar to the league. If they exceed the cap by between $100K and $300K, it costs them $2 for each dollar. Over $300K requires a $3/$1 penalty. In addition to the financial penalties, if your favorite club exceeds the salary cap by more than $100K, they must forfeit their next first-round draft pick. Teams must surrender their first and second round picks if they go $300K over the salary cap. These strict measures help to ensure parity in the league.
The CFL rosters are limited to 42 players on the active roster. To get an idea of how this would be distributed, if teams were to keep the maximum of 42 players (no reserve players or practice players or others) and paid everyone the same (which is ridiculous) each player would make over $102,000. The notion that every player would get paid the same is silly, that reference was only made to give perspective.
A below-average CFL player will have a salary of over $50,000. Since team salary caps will rise by $50,000 per year for the coming years, the $50K salary will become a thing of the past. Average to above average players can earn six figures. Some, more elite, CFL players have been known to earn as much as $250,000-$500,000 per year.
To give you a better idea we can use Ricky Foley as an example. Rickey Foley is a defensive end who is in the top 5 of most of his team's defensive categories. The Toronto Argonauts recently signed him with a 2011 base salary of $95,000 including possible bonuses. The contract also came with a $50,000 signing bonus. Ricky Foley is one of the five (arguably three) best defensive players on his club so this should give a clear picture of how the pay structure works in the Canadian Football League.
CFL players don't make the millions per year that NFL players do. Compared to other, lower-level pro sports, such as independent league baseball player salaries, they make quite a bit. Given the popularity of Canadian Football, I expect the average salaries of CFL players to rise.