Billions of dollars pass through the NFL every year. America’s favorite sports league throws money around like few others do in an attempt to reach the vaunted Super Bowl. But not every dime or nickel is used wisely, especially when it comes to players’ contracts. In fact, some shocking decisions have even destroyed franchises.
How many franchises have stagnated because they can’t shift a fading star on a massive salary? Everybody fears the weight of dead money, which often leads to difficult choices. Then you have younger players riding massive hype trains, who just fail to deliver under massive pressure.
Today we’re going to take a look at 25 recent NFL contracts that destroyed the franchises who made them. Check out the list below via Stadiumtalk.
25. Jay Cutler
The once-prominent Chicago Bears are famous for their quarterback curse. They just can’t get a decent one for life or money. For some reason, they thought Cutler was a superstar. After two seasons, they extended his contract with a seven-year deal. In the end, he left after just three more seasons, taking home over $50 million. But his legacy in Chicago is definitely one of failure and underachievement.
Of course, playing under four different offensive coordinators didn’t help matters. But tying up a player like him to a $125 million contract was a dumb move even by their standards. It was impossible to get him off their books earlier because of how they structured his deal. While they only paid $2 million in dead money, they had no choice but to keep him around, so in practice, it was much more than that.
Vick changed the sport as he combined the technical skills of a quarterback with the athleticism of a running back. In 2006 he became the first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards. But the Falcons unwittingly created a massive problem for themselves when they gave him an extension in 2004. Drug problems arose, while it culminated in him disappearing to prison after the notorious dogfighting scandal.
This was a massive blow to the Falcons because, despite all of Vick’s character flaws, he was still arguably one of the best quarterbacks in the league at the time. Furthermore, they had invested a lot of money in him which effectively went down the drain. This almost destroyed the franchise as they had to wait for the emergence of Matt Ryan to move forward.
The Detroit Lions thought that Flowers would save their defense, but instead, he added to the chaos. They expected so much more from the defensive end but so far he hasn’t produced elite form at all. When you look at the numbers they put down to secure his arrival in Michigan, it hasn’t worked out in any form. We’re talking about a five-year contract worth $90 million. Furthermore, they guaranteed him $56 million.
Flowers is the sixth highest-paid defensive player in the league, but his numbers have declined since joining the Lions. Sure, New England gave him more support, but it still doesn’t excuse him for flopping. Meanwhile, the Lions have too much money involved to cut him loose; one of the many decisions that have destroyed their franchise.
There are a lot of questions about Stafford’s long-term future in Detroit. But the biggest question of all is why they gave him such a lucrative contract. Let’s be real: Stafford was never a Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. He’s a serviceable professional but not top-level. They kept him because he was decent and consistent, which means a lot for a team that is perenially bad.
But now he’s 32 and the Lions will have their eye on a young replacement in the draft soon. However, it’s difficult to get an upgrade when you have someone like Stafford on the books. Furthermore, it prevents you from spreading the salary cap into other areas. If they were to trade him next season, it would cost them $16 million in dead money. That’s a lot of damage.
In 2016, Wilkerson suffered a horrible leg break in Week 17, as the Jets painfully missed out on a spot in the playoffs despite a winning record. However, the defensive end had had a great year, so they decided to reward him by giving him a five-year extension worth $86 million. Furthermore, they guaranteed him $53 million. Wilkerson was never the same player after this, but was it the injury or the money?
The hulking defensive tackle became the Jets’ highest-paid player but immediately lost his self-discipline. He continually showed up late to practice and team meetings. This resulted in him receiving fines and sitting for games as punishment. It reached a new level in 2017 with the Jets warning him that if he was late one more time, they’d trade him. But Wilkinson still made a lot of money from them even if it destroyed his ambition.
Peyton Manning retired in 2016 and the Denver Broncos still haven’t replaced him properly. Drew Lock is finally emerging as their potential quarterback of the future and not a moment too soon. They tried Flacco but that ended in disaster because he hasn’t performed well since 2013. Furthermore, Flacco was the team’s highest earner despite losing his place as the starter after just eight games.
Finally, the Broncos cut their losses and packed him off to the New York Jets. But they’re still on the hook for $13.6 million in dead money after paying him almost four million dollars per game started. From a financial perspective, it’s disastrous. Then from a team-building and salary cap perspective, it’s shambolic. Denver destroyed their hopes and dreams with this deal.
Now with the Kansas City Chiefs, Bell finally escaped from New York after a miserable time of it with the Jets. The former Steelers star joined the Jets in 2018 on a ludicrous contract worth $52.5 million over four years. It didn’t help that head coach Adam Gase didn’t want him in the first place, but Bell failed to endear him to his qualities. Somehow he left the worst team in the NFL for the best.
In his final season for the Steelers, Bell carried 321 times for 1,291 yards. But he never came close to matching those career-high numbers with the Jets. Now to be fair, the Jets as an entity are dreadful, but when you give somebody that big of a salary, then you expect much more. To sum up, this is the type of frivolous spending and poor roster planning that has destroyed the Jets.
The Jets need to reboot their team. They’ve already got rid of Le’Veon Bell, but there is more overpaid, deadwood to move on. One of the highest-earning linebackers in the NFL, Mosley should be producing outstanding numbers for the New York franchise. However, he has not represented good value for money at all. Things looked good for him when he played for the Baltimore Ravens, but not now in green.
He fled Maryland as a free agent when the Jets offered him a stunning $85 million deal. Needless to say, these are the types of moves that have destroyed their franchise. Mosley hasn’t delivered on his promise but still commands a massive salary. Furthermore, he missed most of the 2019 season and opted to sit out in 2020. Meanwhile, he’s laughing all the way to the bank.
The New York Giants have a lot of problems and Solder is definitely one of the biggest. Overall, they have a young roster with a few notable exceptions including the former Patriots’ star. However, his contract is definitely the most remarkable because he is the only player on their roster to take home more than $12 million per year. By the way, Solder is 31 and is in decline.
Sometimes you guarantee a player so much money that it becomes impossible to get rid of them. Solder counted about $20 million against the cap in 2020 and will do so again in 2021. Of course, this stunts the development and growth of the Giants. One of the moves that destroyed their hopes of smooth progression, Solder will receive $6.5 million if the franchise releases him.
The Washington Redskins (now Football Team), in their wisdom, decided to make Archuleta the highest-paid safety in the league in 2006. Vinny Cerato had this delusional idea that Archuleta was worth $30 million over seven years, but the player did his best to show him the error of his ways. In short, he was awful. Not long later, he was the highest-paid special teams player in the league.
This was not an accolade that he particularly wanted. But it was a damning indictment of how unreliable he was on the playing field for Washington. After a year, they traded him to the Chicago Bears for a sixth-round draft pick. But he had already secured over a third of his contract. It was an expensive mistake by the Redskins, but what do you expect?
In 2009, the Seattle Seahawks weren’t very good. It took them another three seasons after that to post a winning season because they kept making inept decisions. The Seahawks handed Houshmandzadeh a massive contract. The wide receiver signed a five-year deal worth $40 million but was already past his prime. But that wasn’t his fault, was it?
They finally released him at the end of the season after a grand contribution of three touchdowns and two fumbles. In sum, the 32-year-old just wasn’t able to physically cope with the expectation on his shoulders. But he still brought home $15 million in guaranteed money. The man with the most unwriteable name in the NFL didn’t mind, because they made him very rich.
Smith suffered a terrible leg break in 2018 that left him battling for his life – nevermind his leg. Because of this, he missed out on the entire 2019 season. To say that he destroyed the franchise appears harsh. But from a financial perspective, his four-year extension worth over $90 million is a disaster. That’s not his fault, but, nonetheless, it is the truth of the matter.
The Redskins were abysmal in 2019 without Smith as their starting quarterback. They went 3-13 overall as they missed the veteran badly. Meanwhile, in 2020, they had no choice but to put him on their 53-man roster because they still owed him $16 million in guaranteed money. However, he did take over for Kyle Allen and Dwayne Haskins in Week Seven of the season which was a fantastic comeback story after two lost years for the franchise.
The only player on this list to feature twice, Bradford stole a living in the NFL. He took $130 million from four different teams and never delivered upon his potential. His final deal with the Arizona Cardinals was particularly bad. He arrived as a veteran in 2018 on a $20 million one-year contract. But his performances were abysmal and it all ended in tears.
Bradford only started three games for the Cardinals and they all ended in defeat. Furthermore, he was culpable in each game because his displays were inept. That trio of appearances cost them an astounding $5.3 million per game. Then they released him a few weeks later. Furthermore, Bradford is the 15th best-paid quarterback in the history of the NFL. Bradford’s agent is living the American Dream.
Can you believe that the Bears actually traded up to draft Trubisky? Three years later, he lost his starting place to Nick Foles. Yes, the same Nick Foles who left the Jacksonville Jaguars after starting just four games in an $ 88 million contract. Chicago fans have had to suffer a lot when it comes to quarterbacks after Mike Glennon’s abysmal run for the team.
But Trubisky has only rubbed salt into their wounds. He deceived them in 2018 into thinking that he could be a franchise quarterback. But the North Carolina alumnus has only declined since then. 2019 was poor but the Bears gambled on him recovering from this setback. However, he didn’t and they are paying the price. Their decision to place their hopes on him hasn’t necessarily destroyed the franchise as they somehow sit at 5-1 with Foles starting.
Being a Jets’ fan is like living in purgatory because they have been so bad over the past few years. They handed Johnson a five-year $72.5 million contract as if they wanted to prove that their decision making is horrendous. Furthermore, they guaranteed him over $50 million. Then he departed after just two seasons with very little on-field contribution and as the worst free agent in the team’s history.
Johnson spent a lot of time injured and played poorly whenever he did appear. The team won just e11 games across the two seasons he played for them. Finally, he departed but with the caveat that the Jets still had $12 million in dead money to pay. Of course, it wasn’t just one individual that destroyed the Jets, but he definitely was a symptom of their malaise.
The Houston Texans have a great quarterback now in Deshaun Watson, but this wasn’t always the case. The name Osweiler still sends shivers down the spines of their fans because he was so awful. Osweiler created more interceptions than starts during his single season in Texas. Finally, he cost them in the postseasons with three interceptions against the Patriots after replacing the concussed Tom Savage as the starter.
Then there was the humiliating manner of his departure. It actually cost the Texans to get rid of him because they gave the Cleveland Browns a second-round draft pick. The Browns didn’t even want him and part of the plan was to release him the next September. Meanwhile, Osweiler cost the Browns $9 million in dead money. He was a very expensive mistake and set the franchise back.
Asomugha played for the Philadelphia Eagles during one of the bleakest periods of their recent history. But his arrival came after the franchise splurged in the free agent market. They brought him in to shore up their defensive line, but instead, it crumbled on a consistent basis. In the end, they released him just two years into a five-year contract. Their planning didn’t go too well.
After arriving as a two-time All-Pro, the Eagles were very excited about their new signing. But this didn’t last for long as injuries and poor form wracked his progress with the franchise. However, he still earned $25 million during his time there and took home another $4 million in dead money. This shambolic effort destroyed their hopes of being contenders during this period.
Chip Kelly led the Philadelphia Eagles to a 7-9 losing season in 2015. But one of the biggest stories from the year was the failure of their running back Murray. After an NFL Offensive Player of the Year winning season, Kelly thought that the franchise had pulled off a coup. In short, the former Cowboys’ star couldn’t handle the pressure and things swiftly fell apart.
After a superb 1,845 yards the year before for Dallas, Murray managed just 702 for the Eagles. They traded him at the end of the season to the Titans just one year into a five-season contract. Meanwhile, he cost them about $14 million between paid salary and dead money. It was an expensive mistake and one that caused the Eagles to perform very poorly on the playing field.
On the face of it, $4.5 million in dead-cap money isn’t the worst. But this came after the Chicago Bears had already paid Glennon $16 million for doing practically nothing on the field. In sum, the Bears’ quarterback situation is a recurring nightmare. He started just four games with three losses before Mitchell Trubisky came in as the Bears’ savior. We all know how that turned out.
It was always going to be a gamble after Glennon spent two years as a backup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. To come in as the Bears’ starter was a massive step-up and he couldn’t bridge the gap. However, Glennon was definitely a winner in the situation because he walked away with an unlikely massive amount of money. It wasn’t his fault that the Bears planted the seeds for their malaise.
Cousins is an ongoing nightmare for the Minnesota Vikings. First of all, they thought that they had themselves a franchise quarterback after several years with the Redskins. But he has devolved into a shadow of what a brilliant player they thought he would be. He was mediocre but overpaid in his first couple of seasons. Then in 2020, he became horrific.
His fully-guaranteed $84 million contract was insane after year one but looks delusional now. Cousins’ week two display against the Colts in 2020 epitomized his decline in form as he went 11 for 26 for 113 yards and three interceptions. Effectively, the Vikings have destroyed their hopes of progress by handing him so much money. It would cost them $45 million in dead-cap to get rid of him.
Just what the Jacksonville Jaguars were thinking, we don’t know. Foles somehow managed to convince the rudderless franchise that he deserved a mega-contract because he won the Super Bowl in 2017. This was in 2019, after spending another season as Carson Wentz’s backup. But somehow the Jaguars still handed him a four-year, $88 million deal.
This was one of the worst free agency moves of the past 10 years. Foles started four games before Gardner Minshew replaced him. Meanwhile, the Jaguars paid him over $30 million for four losses. Then they traded him to the Chicago bears at the end of the season and absorbed a cool $18 million in dead cap money. Foles’s agent laughed all the way to the bank as the Jaguars destroyed their hopes and dreams with this craziness.
He’s back. Bradford changed the NFL after his arrival in the league. However, it wasn’t for any good reasons because his displays for the St. Louis Rams were utterly dreadful. But his massive contract forced the NFL to reconsider how franchises should pay rookies. They introduced the rookie wage scale to combat teams paying outrageous sums of money to unproven athletes.
The young quarterback landed an obscene six-year, $78 million deal with a guaranteed $50 million. But the Rams didn’t receive much in the way of output from their highly-paid athlete because he spent most of the time injured. A recurring ACL injury effectively destroyed his career, while he only managed an 18-30-1 record with St. Louis. Overall, Bradford was just a disaster for the franchise.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers was horrendous in 2014 with a miserable 2-14 record. A big reason for this was their decision to put their faith in Johnson. It turned out to be the wrong decision as they had one of the worst defensive records in the league. Johnson was a key performer for them – insofar that he was totally abysmal. But you have to blame Tampa for blindly making him their main man.
He arrived on a five-year contract worth almost $45 million. This represented a big chunk of the salary cap but he didn’t live up to it. Johnson looked like a fantastic athlete, but he didn’t play well at all for the Bucs. They released him a year later after he registered four sacks in 14 games. Despite this, Tampa still ended up paying him $16 million. One of the worst contracts ever.
Brett Favre was a Green Bay Packers’ legend, but that didn’t stop them from cutting ties when it became apparent that he was getting too old. Why didn’t the New York Giants do the exact same thing with Eli Manning’s situation? The quarterback led the franchise to some of its greatest moments but arguably also destroyed the franchise by staying for too long.
Among the most ridiculous things the Giants have ever done was bring back Manning for the final year of his contract and then bench him. When Manning was 38, New York handed him the 18th-highest base salary in the NFL. Meanwhile, they were grooming Daniel Jones to take over. Meanwhile, this had a very negative effect on the salary cap and didn’t do anything for their on-field success either.
The Washington Football Team has made a lot of mistakes throughout their long history but Haynesworth is up there as one of the worst. ‘Fat Albert’ was horrendous for the then-Redskins after arriving as a free agent. But he became one of the worst busts ever. Haynesworth destroyed team morale, received a massive salary, and contributed almost nothing on the field.
Out of shape, ignorant, and disrespectful, he did absolutely nothing to warrant a seven-year, $100 million contract. The tackle clashed with the likes of head coach Mike Shanahan and teammates. Furthermore, the team suspended him because his insubordination levels rose to a new level, proving how much he truly destroyed for the franchise. Finally, Haynesworth also failed physicals after showing up overweight.