The best players in every sport should enjoy the biggest contracts. There’s no great revelation there, but the reality is that it isn’t always the case. In fact, many athletes enjoy contracts that are so lucrative, it’s like they are robbing their game checks. That’s especially clear in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league like the NFL.
So today we’re going to take a look at 25 of the worst contracts in the sport. Some of these athletes played well for a single season and then declined dramatically. Some excellent players have experienced injuries and haven’t delivered because of them. Finally, some franchises don’t know how to manage contracts at all and throw millions of dollars away as a result. Either way, all of them are holding their franchises back. Check out the list via Fansided below.
25. Jacoby Brissett
This contract is close to the end, but it ended up bad business from the Colts. After Andrew Luck retired, Brissett had the opportunity to consolidate himself as the starting quarterback in Indianapolis. However, the Colts and Brissett finished the 2019 season poorly and the team decided to bring in Philip Rivers. The veteran QB immediately took over starting duties on a one-year, $25 million deal.
So far that’s fine, but a look at the figures shows how messy the Colts’ quarterback situation is. Brissett’s rookie contract was worth about two million dollars. He negotiated a two-year $30 million deal with two-thirds of that guaranteed. The former North Carolina Wolfpacks’ QB didn’t even use an agent, but still managed to wrangle one of the most insane deals in recent NFL history.
Smith’s comeback story is arguably the greatest in NFL history. He could have lost his leg or even his life after a horrific leg break in 2018. In 2020 he made an amazing return to professional football with the Washington Football Team. It’s an amazing story, but fans still can’t pretend Smith has necessarily played well. He only came in because former first-round selection Dwayne Haskins was less convincing than Nate Robinson in a boxing ring.
Meanwhile, Smith’s contract is very lucrative and has proven to be an extremely poor piece of business from the franchise’s perspective. His deal guarantees him $71 million and expires in 2023. He will cost them a $24.4 million cap hit or if they cut ties, $10.8 million in dead money. Looking at this from a cold, business-like perspective, Smith has failed to repay this massive investment on the playing field.
Does anybody really think that Goff is the man to take the Los Angeles Rams to the next level? It’s just probably not going to happen. He experienced a brutal start to life in the NFL but bounced back with back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons. This convinced the Rams to hand him a four-year, $134 million extension. Now they have more regrets than anybody after an office Christmas party.
Goff’s main problem is his ridiculous interception rate. This led to fans calling for his head in 2019. They settled down a bit after a solid start to 2020, but the interceptions came back with a vengeance. Goff looks like a worldbeater when things go well, but he lacks the consistency that one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league should guarantee.
Tate has proven to be far more trouble than he is worth for the New York Giants. The former Seahawks receiver joined the Giants after a wretched time in Philadelphia. Despite this, New York paid too much for his services. First, he was on the wrong side of 30 and showed no signs of improving his form. Then, to compound matters, he missed the first four games of his debut season because of a PED violation.
The Giants agreed on a deal worth close to $40 million when Tate signed in 2019. One of the tastiest receiver contracts out there, Tate should be very happy with his payday. But after scoring one touchdown in the 2020 season, he unleashed an outburst about the team, which resulted in coach Joe Judge benching him next time out. Surely they could have taken those millions and thrown them at somebody younger.
The Cincinnati Bengals are paying Green $18 million on the franchise tag. Now 32, the seven-time Pro Bowler was once one of the top receivers in the league. But that’s no longer the case and at his age, it’s unfair to expect him to be. Not only that, but the Bengals contrived to totally misuse him throughout the 2020 season. That makes their decision to hand him one of the biggest WR contracts all the more bizarre.
After 13 games in 2020, Green posted 35 receptions for 357 receiving yards and a single touchdown. By his lofty standards, those numbers are horrendous. Now, he is clearly older and the team is garbage, but one thing they did have was an outstanding young quarterback in Joe Burrow. It’s been a strange year for Green and his contribution hasn’t matched his salary.
Yes, James is a Bronco, although we forgive anybody who forgot that. His situation is one of the most bizarre on this list because he’s done nothing to deserve the money he takes home. For some reason, Denver thought it was a good idea to make him the highest-paid right tackle in the entire league. This was despite the fact that he is a solid player but not an elite one.
Now 28, James has never made a single Pro Bowl, never mind an All-Pro selection. The former Dolphins star missed most of 2019 with injuries, making three appearances. Then he chose to opt-out of the next year because of the global health crisis. But he still enjoys one of the most lucrative contracts in the league. Meanwhile, it will cost the Broncos $21 million in dead money if they choose to cut him in 2021.
In 2017, the Detroit Lions tied up Stafford for five years by making him the then-highest paid player in the NFL. He signed a contract worth $135 million now that guaranteed him the starting quarterback role for the next half a decade. While Patrick Mahomes has changed the landscape for franchise quarterback contracts, this was huge news at the time.
But the reality is that Stafford wasn’t and isn’t worth that much cash. His record over the past few years against winning teams is atrocious. Stafford should have been a building block for the franchise, but instead, he took up salary cap space without helping the franchise move forward. Stafford isn’t in the same bracket as tier one quarterbacks like Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, or Deshaun Watson.
Flowers is not a bad player by any means, but the Lions definitely overpaid for what he brings to the team. A two-time Super Bowl champion with the Patriots, Detroit jumped at the chance to sign him up as a free agent in 2019 by offering him a five-year contract worth a massive $90 million. The last part is the reason why he’s on this list because he isn’t playing like he deserves that kind of obscene money.
During his time with the New England Patriots, Flowers was a dependable cog in an efficient system. But now that he is a big fish in a small pond, he’s no longer as productive as before. Some players thrive on the feeling of knowing that the franchise depends on them while others simply can’t produce to the same extent. The earliest Detroit can escape this deal is in 2022 but they’ll take a hit of $12 million.
Overall, the San Francisco 49ers really haven’t come out on the right side of their deal with Ford. The defensive end enjoys a massive $85 million contract but rarely plays. Of course, they had no way of knowing that he would spend two years with the team injured when they signed him up in exchange for a second-round pick from the Kansas City Chiefs in 2019.
Yet overall, Ford just doesn’t do enough to warrant one of the most ridiculous contracts in the sport. With two starts in 2020 during the 49ers’ horrific, injury-filled season the year after making the Super Bowl, it’s just a waste of money. The likes of Danielle Hunter and Cam Jordan prove that a far greater output can be obtained for much less money than Ford commands.
Jeffery isn’t one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, yet the Eagles pay him like he is one. Since signing his contract extension in 2017, he did help the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title in early 2018. But since then, Jeffery has done very little to show that he was worth the investment. Philly is one of the most fiscally-mismanaged teams in the league. He will take up $18.5 million in cap space in 2021, and he isn’t even a guaranteed starter, which is atrocious.
Even if they release him, the Eagles still have to eat over $10 million in dead money. Contracts like these are an affront to the sport, but it’s too late for Jeffery and the Eagles now. After coming back from Lisfranc surgery and missing much of a disastrous 2020 for Philadelphia, analysts expect his decline to be even more pronounced next season.
Recent history foretells that franchises should be very apprehensive about offering big contracts to former Patriots. Bill Belichick’s biggest success was creating a winning system that enabled every player to play a role. However, several Pats’ stars struggled after leaving Foxborough. Brown enjoyed a strong 2019 and even made the Pro Bowl for the first time after the Raiders made him the highest-paid tackle in the league.
But 2020 has seen him spend an unreasonable amount of time on the injury list. Brown’s $66 million contract keeps him in Las Vegas until 2023. There is time for him to recover and show the type of form that Raiders’ fans expect from a man enjoying a hugely lucrative deal. He remains in his prime, which is why Las Vegas is under pressure to get top play from him, or it will be money severely wasted.
McCaffrey became the highest-paid running back in NFL history in the 2020 offseason, but it wasn’t necessarily the smartest decision the Panthers have ever made. Of course, they had no way of predicting that he would spend the majority of 2020 injured, but that’s exactly what happened.
What makes this deal look even worse in hindsight is the fact that he was in line for an $8.5 million salary in 2021 and would not have had the bargaining power he had. Obviously, he’s an important and highly-talented player, but there’s a huge reason why running backs don’t enjoy the same salaries as other positions. They’re far too vulnerable and there are too many of them. McCaffrey has proven this.
The fact that the 49ers considered replacing Garoppolo with Tom Brady before 2020 even though they made the Super Bowl the previous year says a lot about his fall from grace. San Francisco watched jealously as Patrick Mahomes lit up the Super Bowl to show what a difference a franchise quarterback can make. They expected more from Garoppolo, but it’s fair to say that he hasn’t shown that he has the ability to be a high-level franchise signal-caller.
Yet he has cost them a lot of money. His five-year, $137 million deal still has two years left on it. It’s also going to be tough for them to get out of it because he has a no-trade clause before March 2022. That means they can’t trade him without his consent before then, so it’s not impossible. Nonetheless, the 49ers may find themselves in pursuit of a franchise quarterback in one of the next two drafts.
Another one of those contracts that make fans shake their heads, Lewan is living the good life in Nashville, Tenn. However, ‘Dad’ is definitely taking home more money than he deserves as much as Titans’ fans love him. He inked a five-year extension in 2018 that looks terrible in hindsight. To be fair, he was important in 2019 in helping Derrick Henry reach the NFL rushing title, but only after missing games due to a drug suspension.
Later on in October 2020, he tore his ACL. Furthermore, Lewan began giving away a rising number of penalties before his injury. All of these factors combined to make his $80 million deal look overpriced. While it won’t break the franchise, it’s not exactly helpful. Also, Lewan is 29. Only time will tell how he recovers from his ligament injury and what impact that has on his future productivity.
Drew Brees is the undisputed starting quarterback in New Orleans as Jameis Winston bides his time and waits to prove himself. Hill has built a reputation for himself as a gadget QB, which is all well and good thanks to Sean Payton insisting on giving him the ball. However, he is basically the team’s second-string signal-caller. Yet his contract is worth up to $16 million a year, crazy for what he does.
Hill is one of those gadget players who somehow convince everybody that he does something so niche that he’s very important. If he were a running back, he would enjoy one of the most lucrative contracts in the league. Sure, he started more games than expected in 2020 because of Brees’s injury record, but still, he earns way too much money considering his role on the team.
Johnson’s situation should serve as a warning to any franchise GM who is considering throwing money at a running back. The beleaguered Texans shouldn’t have done it. Their shelf life is shorter than a loaf of bread and they’re just as easy to find. The Arizona Cardinals agreed to pay him $39 million over three years with almost $25 million guaranteed. However, injuries and poor form affected Johnson’s tenure in Phoenix.
Then the Texans decided to trade DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona for Johnson and several picks. Furthermore, they picked up the terms of his Cardinals’ deal and guaranteed him all of the money that Arizona agreed to pay him. Has Johnson improved since his move to Texas? Of course not, which means this was one of the dumbest contracts in recent NFL history.
The Panthers are clearly not a great team and signing players like Short to massive contracts hasn’t helped matters. He signed a five-year extension worth $80 million in 2017, but it’s fair to say that things have not gone well for him since. When a player is on that kind of money, they need to change games and inspire their teams to greater things, but Short simply doesn’t have that in his armory.
Consecutive season-ending shoulder injuries were tough for him to take, but even more difficult for the Panthers, who are obligated to pay his salary anyway. Short is a superb player on his day, but unfortunately, he isn’t able to maintain the continuity to make a consistent impact. Furthermore, the fact that his body keeps letting him down bodes ominously for the future. It’s hard not to feel bad for him.
A two-time Super Bowl winner with the New England Patriots, the Giants thought that they had ready-made experience when they signed Solder as a free agent in 2019. They even made him the highest-paid offensive tackle in the league at the time with a juicy four-year deal worth $62 million. But they definitely regret it now after two years of Solder proving their optimism was misplaced.
Solder played in all 16 games in his first season and missed out on the playoffs for the first time in his career. But he didn’t play well. Age began to catch up with him and his productivity slowed down significantly in a new system with younger teammates. Then, he opted out of the 2020 NFL season because of the global health crisis. While it’s understandable, many fans didn’t appreciate his decision at all.
Cooks is on a one-man tour of the NFL. It looks like he’s making a business visit to every region in the nation and also failing to show that he is one of the best wide receivers in the league. The Rams traded him to the Houston Texans in a deal that was somehow bad for both teams. But Cooks has no complaints because his bank balance is fatter than a Thanksgiving Day turkey.
The Rams are paying Cooks five million dollars to play in Texas. Meanwhile, because they failed to trade him before his bonus was due, it means that instead 0f $18 million in dead money their dead cap charge sits at almost $22 million. It’s just terrible business. Meanwhile, Cooks is an aging receiver and definitely isn’t DeAndre Hopkins, so the Texans could have done much better.
The Titans haven’t exactly missed Humphries this year, but they definitely could have used the money they invested in him in a much more effective way. He arrived from Tampa Bay after the best season of his career but hasn’t come close to replicating that during his two years in Nashville. Indeed, since his arrival, the pressure on Derrick Henry’s shoulders has only increased, which defeats the purpose of having Humphries there.
A combination of injuries meant that Humphries missed a significant chunk of games in 2020. His four-year deal, worth $36 million, increasingly looks like money thrown away. The Titans could have taken his guaranteed millions in salary and used it more productively. Awarding such lucrative contracts to players after a single good season is definitely not advisable as history proves each and every year.
Cousins is one of the most overpaid quarterbacks in the NFL and maybe even NFL history. The Minnesota Vikings thought that he would take them to the next level, but that hasn’t happened. In fact, the franchise has run hot and cold with Cousins in place as their signal-caller. A 0-5 start to 2020 before turning it around to win five of their next seven shows exactly what a strange place this team is in.
Quite simply, the Vikings can’t trust Cousins. They extended his deal in 2020 until 2023 with a guaranteed $66 million. For the sake of comparison, Aaron Rodgers takes home that type of money and Cousins absolutely is not in that bracket. Throwing massive contracts at average quarterbacks is one of those tired old NFL traditions that happens every season. But somehow, teams still fall into the same trap.
The New York Jets went on a massive spending spree in 2019 in a vain attempt to reignite their franchise. They offered Mosley a five-year deal worth $85 million as part of it. Gang Green made him the second-highest-paid linebacker in the entire league. It’s safe to say that this one has not worked out at all. The Jets have won just eight games since the former Ravens star signed one of the most disastrous contracts in the sport.
The worst part of this for the Jets is that Mosley has only played in two games for New York. First, he suffered a groin injury and required surgery, missing almost all of 2019. Then he chose to opt out of the next season because of the global health crisis. Meanwhile, if the Jets cut him in 2021, they’ll lose $20 million. Even if they wait one more year, they’ll take a $12.5 million hit. Mosley has hurt them badly.
First, Quinn is 30 and arguably in his prime but it could be all downhill from here. For some reason, the Chicago Bears rewarded him with a five-year deal worth $70 million. It’s bizarre that they handed him such a long and lucrative deal because he will only decline over the next couple of years. Meanwhile, the last time he made the Pro Bowl was in 2014, so it’s unlikely that he will suddenly become a worldbeater again.
In 2019, Quinn achieved 11.5 sacks with Dallas. But a year later, he managed just two by Week 15. This fall in production meant that he delivered the lowest output of his career. Meanwhile, the outside linebacker plays opposite Khalil Mack, so he really has no excuses. Because of that, this is one of the worst contracts in any sport right now. What the Bears were thinking, nobody knows but somebody should answer for it.
The Cowboys were full of excitement and optimism after an exciting offseason. Many fans believed that they could go on a postseason run and even become dark horses for the Super Bowl. Of course, the Cowboys are fantastic at letting everybody down, and they imploded quite spectacularly. After Dak Prescott suffered a gruesome, season-ending broken ankle, the team’s form deteriorated dramatically.
Elliot is emblematic of their poor display throughout the year. He played much better with Prescott, but without his quarterback, he hasn’t shown his qualities at all. One of the highest-paid running backs in the NFL, Elliot has averaged less than 65 yards per game and has more fumbles than touchdowns. Dallas must pay $24.5 million if they choose to trade him in 2021 or pay his guaranteed contract a year later. What a mess.
Wentz’s form in 2020 has been near the bottom of the league in most statistical categories and resulted in the Philadelphia Eagles dropping him to start Jalen Hurts in Week 13. Meanwhile, the former first overall pick quarterback still enjoys one of the most lucrative contracts in the NFL. After a good season in 2019, the team handed him his first post-rookie deal. This should have come with a warning label to all other NFL teams to be wary of doing the same.
The extension worth $128 million with a guaranteed $108 million that doesn’t expire until 2025. The Eagles are in a lose-lose situation because if they cut him it would result in a disgusting amount of dead money. We’re talking upwards of $68 million. But if they trade him, it’ll cost $33.8 million on the cap. As we said, it’s a no-win scenario unless he suddenly remembers how to play as a quarterback.