Greed Before Glory: NFL Players Who Value Cash Above Passion

Darren - September 29, 2023

Greed Before Glory: NFL Players Who Value Cash Above Passion

Darren - September 29, 2023

Let’s be honest: most NFL players care about money more than anything else in professional football. Fans might not like this because they want their favorite athletes to love their franchises and only be concerned with wins. But few NFL careers last beyond four years so they have a short time to maximize their earnings. Nonetheless, some stars are only about the cash money.

Today we’ll look at these elite players and see what makes them stand out. Maybe they had high-profile holdouts and held their teams to ransom. Others might have a reputation for being exceptionally stingy. Then there are the unfortunate running backs who can’t make the cash they deserve at all.

CBS Sports

Chris Jones

Patrick Mahomes is rightfully the Chiefs’ most well-kknown player but Jones is another crucial cog. The All-Pro defensive lineman is one of the best in the business and played a key role in their Super Bowl victories. But Jones cares about the cash and expected the franchise to do right by him (via Forbes).

The Seattle Times

He had no qualms about holding out throughout the summer of 2023. Jones missed the Chiefs’ entire camp as well as the first game of the new season. Finally, the Chiefs backed down and restructured his contract with more bonuses. They lost their Week One game without him but he’s been brilliant since he returned.


Brian Burns

Every NFL player wants to make money but some stars divide opinions. In 2023, Burns wanted the Panthers to pay him but they refused. He contemplated a holdout but in the end, put on his helmet in Week One. He said that football was more important than cold, hard cash.

However, the reality was that he was being pragmatic about the situation. He knew that it was necessary to convince his team or others that he was worth a big deal. Several media sources believed that he was eyeing up a midseason trade so it’s safe to say that he was playing the long game (via WSOC).


Deebo Samuel

Samuel tore up the league in 2021 and to a lesser extent in 2022 as he revolutionized the wide receiver position. He helped the Niners reach the NFC Championship Game and had a brilliant year. But then he wanted more cash and demanded that the franchise pay up. They refused so he rocked the league when he pushed for a trade.

NBC Sports

No fanbase wants to see their favorite stars leave under a cloud. In the end, San Francisco made a deal before their first week of training camp. They offered him a new contract with a guaranteed $58 million. It’s fair to say that Samuel was a winner in this situation after they backed down (via CBC).

Austin Ekeler

Some people criticized Justin Herbert because his mega contract extension meant that his star teammate Ekeler went underpaid. But that’s not the only reason why he didn’t get the cash that he wanted. Unfortunately, most running backs can’t make the big money right now. The Chargers even allowed him to talk to other teams in 2023.

The Athletic

Finally, Ekeler returned to the franchise with his cap held out because he couldn’t find a trade. The Chargers added almost two million dollars in incentives but it wasn’t much for one of the NFL’s best running backs. After all, he exceeded 1,500 scrimmage yards in consecutive years with 38 touchdowns (via

Bleacher Report

Chris Johnson

Johnson serves as a warning to GMs across the NFL landscape. He was arguably the second-best running back in the league when he sought a massive extension in 2011. There was a messy holdout before the Titans backed down. Their logic was that they had a rookie quarterback so there was cash to spare.

Sports Illustrated

But this was one of the biggest mistakes ever. Johnson was their most important offensive cog and made the Pro Bowl for three straight seasons. He was also the 2009 Offensive Player of the Year. But after he signed a laughable $53 million extension he suffered immediate decline (via Bleacher Report).

Sports Illustrated

Eric Dickerson

Dickerson made history in 1984 when he rushed for 2,105 yards. The Rams star came off two great seasons and believed that the franchise should reward him. However, they disagreed and this kicked off a bitter holdout. Dickerson even missed the first two games of the season as neither side backed down.


In the end, he returned and played for two more seasons but the rift never healed. Dickerson finally quit the Rams for the Colts in 1987. It was a shame that things came to an acrimonious end but that’s business. In 1999, they finally resolved their differences as the Rams honored Dickerson (via CBS Sports).


Dalvin Cook

Cook found himself in a precarious position in 2023 when he became a free agent. Nobody wants veteran running backs these days because they can draft rookies and pay them less money. That’s why these players care about cash more than any other position in the sport (via Fansided).

New York Post

The Vikings released him because nobody wanted to trade for the potentially cooked star. Then the Jets signed him on a one-year seven-million-dollar contract as they looked to add to Aaron Rodgers’ weapons. Nothing turned out the way they planned because Rodgers tore his Achilles tendon and Cook was past his prime.

NBC Sports

Terrell Owens

Owens openly said that when it came to contract negotiations it was all about his family. That meant he would go to whoever paid him the most cash. It was almost refreshingly honest even if some people considered him a mercenary. However, he almost reached a breaking point with the Eagles in 2005 (via WCU Quad).


First, he wasn’t one of the top 10 highest-paid receivers in the league. He compared his contract to Randy Moss because he believed he deserved the same standard. Things escalated when his relationship with Donovan McNabb deteriorated. Finally, the Eagles handed him a new deal worth almost $50 million.

CBS Sports

Kyler Murray

Murray is one of the most frustrating figures on this list because he received a massive contract but didn’t earn it. The quarterback showed flashes of promise for the Arizona Cardinals but failed to convince everybody. However, the franchise knew that they had to stick or twist in 2022.


The former Sooners star had back-to-back Pro Bowl years before he signed a $230 million extension. But then he had a couple of disastrous seasons after his massive payday. Nobody can blame him for pursuing the biggest deal possible but it’s annoying for the fans when players don’t produce (via Sports Illustrated).


Emmitt Smith

Holdouts are the only time when NFL players want their team to lose. That’s because it increases their bargaining power if they can say the franchise is weaker without them. Smith found himself in this scenario after the Cowboys started 0-2 in 1993 after they won the Super Bowl.

CBS Sports

Smith was brilliant the previous season as he led the league in rushing yards. His contribution allowed Jerry Jones to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy. But Jones didn’t want to give the talented running back a lucrative extension. Finally, Smith ended his holdout and the Cowboys won another Super Bowl (via NBC Sports).

Sporting News

Kirk Cousins

Cousins has a reputation for being one of the stingiest NFL players out there. The quarterback knows that money doesn’t last forever and that’s why he’s very protective of his earnings. He famously drove his grandfather’s van after he fell in love with it as a youngster (via The Washington Post).


Most football players love supercars but they don’t turn Cousins’ head. He manages his cash well because he wants to provide for his family when he finishes his football career. Meanwhile, the Vikings gave him the first fully guaranteed contract in NFL history in 2018 before he signed a one-year extension.

CBS Sports

Derrick Henry

Henry is the second elite Titans running back on this list. He reacted furiously to the ongoing running back salary crisis in the NFL. The Tenessee player believes that it’s extremely unfair and that the players deserve better. Check out his visceral response on Twitter in June 2023.

Sky Sports

The star tweeted: “At this point, just take the RB position out of the game then. The ones who want to be great & work as hard as they can to give their all to an organization just seem like it doesn’t even matter. I’m with every RB who’s fighting to get what they deserve (via USA Today).”


Darrelle Revis

Revis was one of the Jets’ best players at the turn of the decade. That’s when they were in playoff discussion before they fell off the deep end. The defensive end had an All-Pro season in 2009 and decided he wanted more cash. Hard Knocks covered their training camp and received more drama than they expected.


The Jets initially failed to come to terms with him so he sat out for most of their training camp. Usually, head coaches understand the game and don’t allow it to them. But it visibly infuriated Rex Ryan who confronted Woody Johnson directly about the situation. Finally, the Jets gave Revis the extension that he wanted (via Over the Cap).


Russell Wilson

Wilson’s fans will staunchly defend their favorite player and say that he joined Denver because he wanted to win. That’s great but it doesn’t hide the fact that the Seahawks did better without him. Furthermore, he didn’t give up any cash to join the Broncos in 2022 (via PFF).


Denver is paying the Super Bowl winner almost $50 million per season as part of a $296 million deal. It’s sensational money and that’s why there were sinking hearts when he had a nightmarish first year in Mile High City. Make no mistake, Wilson wouldn’t have joined Denver if the money wasn’t right.

Fox News

Saquon Barkley

Barkley made headlines in the summer of 2023 because he was at loggerheads with the Giants’ front office. The star running back wanted an extension but the suits laughed in his face. Everybody knows that running back is the most underpaid position in the league right now.

CBS Sports

He threatened a holdout but the response was fascinating. Many fans called him naive because they were never going to pay him. In the end, Barkley agreed a one-year extension worth $10 million. This was the same as if they put him under the franchise tag but they added more bonuses (via Fansided).

NFL Spin Zone

JaMarcus Russell

The NFL changed the rules after the Russell debacle that saw the Raiders grossly overpay their rookie quarterback. Russell infamously held out after Oakland drafted him in 2007. He skipped their entire training camp as he held them to ransom before they finally broke (via Bleacher Report).

Sports Illustrated

Finally, they gave him a $68 million contract with roughly half of it guaranteed. Eventually, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to create a new rookie salary cap that they nicknamed the ‘JaMarcus Russell Rule.’ This stopped franchises from throwing cash at unproven players like the former LSU star.


Kelly Stouffer

Stouffer is probably the most obscure player on this list but he had a notorious contract situation. He starred for Colorado State before the Cardinals drafted him in 1987. Expectations were high for the first-round pick but he never received a snap in St. Louis. That’s because a contract holdout kept him on the sidelines for the entire season.

Pro Football History

The quarterback refused to accept their pay offer because he wanted more cash. Finally, they traded him to Seattle in 1988 but he never amounted to much in the NFL. These days fans know him as a decent analyst and media personality. But his football record was disappointing (via Pro Football History).


Jessie Bates III

In 2023, the Falcons signed Bates to a four-year, $64 million contract. Bates left Cincinnati because he wouldn’t play under the franchise tag. He was one of their best players over the previous couple of years. Atlanta had a tough decision because they’re rebuilding but he is a top talent.


Nobody can blame Bates for wanting to make as much cash as possible. However, some analysts believed that the franchise overpaid him when they could have spread that money around the roster. It’s a common debate when teams go big and invest heavily in a single athlete (via Sports Illustrated).

Sports Illustrated

Albert Haynesworth

There are two sides to signing an NFL veteran with a proven track record. They could be brilliant in providing instant quality and leadership to a roster. Or they could fall off a cliff and lose motivation like Haynesworth when he joined Washington in 2009 (via The Athletic).

AP Photo

He was excellent in Tenessee with two All-Pro selections before he joined the Redskins as a free agent. They handed him a $100 million, seven-year deal. He instantly showed up overweight and unmotivated. His signing was a complete disaster and a warning to every NFL franchise.


Lamar Jackson

Jackson has one of the most interesting stories on this list. The quarterback is a divisive figure because some people think he’s one of the NFL’s most overrated players. But the former MVP saw Patrick Mahomes’ contract and wanted a massive deal too. However, the Ravens resisted meeting his demands.

Many people called him naive because he went into negotiations without an agent. In the end, Jackson proved that he was a brilliant businessman because he achieved a five-year, $260 million extension. This also made him the highest-paid NFL player on a per-year basis (via CBS News).

Le’Veon Bell

These days, Bell admits that his Pittsburgh holdout was the biggest mistake of his career. The running back was phenomenal in 2016 as he surged for 1,884 yards in 12 games. Everybody assumed that he would sign the franchise tag in 2018 after he failed to agree on an extension (via Fox News).

Sports Illustrated

Instead, he sat out for the entire season as he refused to change his position. But the Steelers didn’t blink so he sat on the sidelines as he missed the full year. Bell joined the Jets in 2019 but this was a disaster and he quit the franchise in disgust. Finally, he fell out of the NFL after three games for Kansas City.


Tom Brady

Brady may seem like a strange addition to this list but there’s a couple of reasons why he’s on it. Firstly, he joined Tampa Bay in 2020 despite heavy links to the Raiders and his beloved Niners. Florida’s tax laws made it a very attractive choice for the aging quarterback (via The Mirror).


Nobody can blame him for wanting to maximize his final contract. He also helped the Buccaneers to a fairytale Super Bowl win. But Brady cares about cash as fans realized in 2023. He had a stake in the Raiders and this prevented him from coming out of retirement to rescue the Jets.

SacTown Sports

Josh Jacobs

Jacobs joined the ranks of disgruntled running backs in 2023. These days nobody wants to pay these players because it’s so easy to replace them. It’s a tough position when it comes to negotiating an extension. Jacobs discovered this the hard way when the Raiders tried to use the franchise tag.

Las Vegas Review-Journal

He held out throughout the summer and missed their summer schedule. Finally, the Raiders agreed to renegotiate and added an extra two million dollars in incentives to his deal. It’s not much in the grand scheme of things but running backs must fight for every extra dime (via

Sky Sports

Aaron Rodgers

Everybody knows that Rodgers is one of the greatest players of his generation. But he’s also one of the greediest as he proved in recent years as he held the Packers to ransom. The Denver Broncos thought that they were going to pull off a sensational trade in 2022 when Rodgers flirted with them.


But the canny quarterback knew what he was doing as he cajoled the Packers into offering him an extension. He signed a huge deal with the franchise before he quit them the following year for the New York Jets. It’s fair to say that he rubbed many fans up the wrong way with his cash grab (via


Nick Bosa

Bosa became the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history in 2023. This came after he missed the Niners’ entire training camp in a dramatic holdout. The franchise didn’t want to deal with this after Deebo Samuel’s situation the previous year. But they recognized Bosa’s importance and gave him the cash he wanted.


Samuel was the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He led the league in sacks as he showed why he’s one of the best in the business. The Niners knew that it was crucial to keep him to fulfill their championship ambitions because the clock was ticking (via The Guardian).