These overpaid athletes simply didn’t deliver
Sports teams have a lot of money, and they love spending it. Some teams are wise with their investments, while others are terrible. $1 million? Forget about paying a dozen teachers’ salaries — these teams would rather pay a guy who stinks at his job within six months! Here’s our list of the most overpaid athletes in the history of sports.
Former NFL quarterback Sam Bradford is the poster boy for the league’s past problems with rookie contracts. The former No. 1 overall pick signed a six-year, $78.045 million contract with the St. Louis Rams after his selection, and needless to say, the contract didn’t quite work out.
Bradford struggled to stay on the field, and in the time he actually played, he didn’t come close to living up to his massive payday. And as if that wasn’t enough, Bradford signed two more monster contracts, bringing his career earnings to more than $130 million — all for 103 career touchdown passes. That’s more than a $1.25 million payout for each TD!
The New York Knicks have a reputation as the NBA’s worst team when it comes to money, and Eddy Curry is a big reason why — literally. At the age of 22, Curry was hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat — an issue that left some wondering whether he had a congenital heart condition.
Despite this, the Knicks made a big trade to acquire the center and signed him to a six-year, $60 million deal. Curry almost immediately struggled to battle with his weight and conditioning, and his health deteriorated to the point where he appeared in just 10 games over his final three seasons in New York.
MLB superstar Alex Rodriguez is one of the richest athletes in history. In 2000, he signed a 10-year, $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers. And perhaps surprisingly, he lived up to the deal, mashing hundreds of home runs en route to becoming one of modern baseball’s best players.
As if one payday wasn’t enough, Rodriguez signed another 10-year deal — this time, for $275 million — to remain a member of the New York Yankees. But as most sports fans know, the second deal didn’t quite work out. Rodriguez was exposed for using PEDs in 2009, became a constant distraction, and didn’t age quite as Yankee fans would’ve hoped. New York cut A-Rod at the end of 2016 but still owed him millions.
Sure, he brought two Super Bowl titles to the New York Giants. Still, the franchise had no business signing Eli Manning to a four-year, $84 million contract extension in 2015. By then, the quarterback was far removed from his postseason success, having thrown 41 interceptions in his previous two seasons. Nevertheless, the Giants wanted to keep Manning in New York.
Manning’s ensuing performance over the course of his extension wasn’t quite what the team had hoped for. New York went 26-41 with Manning over the next five years, benching him on multiple occasions. Eventually, the team made a change, selecting quarterback Daniel Jones in the first round of the 2019 draft.
At the time he signed his seven-year, $93 million contract with the Orlando Magic, Grant Hill was one of the best players in the NBA. But soon, injuries would plague his career and ruin a contract that once could have been a great value.
Injuries derailed Hill badly, to the point where he only suited up for 47 games in the first four seasons of his contract. At that point, Hill had become a shell of himself and was eventually traded to the Phoenix Suns in 2007. His play improved a little, but was still nowhere close to where it needed to be to merit his monster deal.
The 2012 MLB free-agent class was highlighted by Albert Pujols’ 10-year, $254 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels, but Prince Fielder was arguably the biggest winner of the offseason. The slugging first baseman signed a nine-year pact with the Detroit Tigers, worth $214 million. Neither of the two contracts stood the test of time, but in Fielder’s case, it was far more obvious.
Expecting a player to maintain a high level of proficiency for roughly a decade is a big ask. That’s why Pujols, an MVP player in his prime, hasn’t lived up to his contract despite being a good player. Fielder aged quickly and was eventually forced to retire in July 2016 due to a major neck injury.
In 2009, the Washington Redskins signed defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth to a ridiculous seven-year, $100 million contract. The interior lineman’s productivity over the previous two seasons was exceptional, but teams were wary of signing the 335-pound defender for good reason.
For starters, Haynesworth was known for an incident in which he stomped on a defenseless opponent’s head and received a five-game suspension. Weight and conditioning were also concerns when it came to the defensive lineman. Haynesworth only lasted 20 games in Washington, tallying a measly 6.5 sacks before he was cut.
The first overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft, Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell turned out to be arguably the biggest bust in NFL history. The former LSU superstar played just 31 games as a professional, throwing for 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. Just the fact that Russell ended his career having thrown more picks than scores is all you need to know about the value of this awful contract.
As the first overall pick, Russell was signed for six years on a $68 million deal. The quarterback was out of Oakland — and the NFL — in just three seasons. The Raiders got virtually zero value — arguably even negative value — out of the deal, and they had to pay the quarterback a ridiculous $68 million in the process.
In 1999, the New York Mets were looking to get rid of Bobby Bonilla, whose production wasn’t quite matching up with what he was being paid. But instead of paying him outright, Bonilla would be paid a different way. His agent, Dennis Gilbert, negotiated with the team to defer payments until 2011, with an 8% annual interest rate.
So instead of paying $5.9 million to get rid of Bonilla, the team will pay about $29.95 million in installments from 2011 all the way until 2035. The boneheaded decision by New York’s management has become so well-documented that July 1, the date New York pays its installments each year, is now known by sports fans as “Bobby Bonilla Day.”
There are bad contracts, and there are New York Knicks contracts. One of the Knicks’ many blunders was signing former Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah to a four-year, $72.6 million contract. Not only did Noah fail to live up to expectations on the court, but he even got into an altercation with head coach Jeff Hornacek.
The big man only ended up playing in 53 games across two injury-marred seasons in New York before he was eventually waived. As a member of the Knicks, Noah averaged an abysmal 4.6 points per game. It’s safe to say this is one of the worst contracts ever handed out to an NBA player.
This is a cautionary tale for bad contracts in sports. Rick DiPietro wasn’t a bad player — he was actually one of the NHL’s best goalies at the time he signed the deal — but the contract he signed with the New York Islanders was awful. The team’s pact with the goaltender was for 15 years and $67.5 million, but injuries derailed DiPietro’s career and turned the deal into a tragic investment.
DiPietro’s injuries came as a surprise, but even without hindsight, it’s easy to fault New York for gambling that a 25-year-old would stay healthy until his age-40 season. Sure, had DiPietro remained healthy, this could’ve been a great contract. But player salaries aren’t negotiated in a vacuum — every signing has a risk.
Super Bowl heroes almost always get paid. That was definitely the case with Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who parlayed one of the best postseason performances in NFL history into a six-year, $120.6 million contract extension. At the time, it made him the highest-paid player in all of football, a status that even at the time he didn’t necessarily deserve.
Flacco’s contract is a case study for why players shouldn’t be paid for past performance. Almost immediately after he got paid, Flacco reverted back into a middle-of-the-road passer — a quarterback who would win just one playoff game in the ensuing six seasons of his deal.
Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis was one of baseball’s best power hitters over a four-year stretch, mashing 159 homers on his way to a massive contract extension. Davis’ pact with Baltimore was a seven-year, $161 million commitment that the team almost immediately came to regret.
Over the first four years of the extension, Davis hit just 80 home runs — 38 of which came in the first year of the deal. In 2019, his laughable hitless streak of 62 at-bats was one of baseball’s biggest story lines — just further evidence of how much Baltimore regrets handing out such a massive extension.
Known in basketball for his last-second shot which sent the New York Knicks to the NBA Finals, Allan Houston was rewarded with a six-year deal worth $100 million. The guard was a great player, but as with many other players on this list, injuries took a toll on his career and made his contract a regrettable one.
A major knee injury hamstrung Houston after two decent seasons, and his once-promising career appeared to be in the rearview mirror. And as if losing Houston wasn’t bad enough, the contract the Knicks signed him to made the guard the NBA’s highest-paid player both in 2006 and 2007 — despite the fact that he didn’t play a single game in either season.
In 2014, the Chicago Bears made a head-scratching decision to sign quarterback Jay Cutler to a seven-year, $126.7 million contract. Even before the contract, Cutler was widely considered to be a league-average passer or worse, and the deal did not age well.
The quarterback’s erratic decision-making eventually proved too much for Chicago, which released him three years into the deal. After signing his new deal, Cutler had thrown 44 interceptions in 35 games. Chicago’s record over that stretch was 12-23. By 2017, Cutler had retired from professional football entirely.
The warning signs were there with Josh Hamilton. The outfielder was very open about his past struggles with drug abuse, but while his story was inspiring, relapse was always a possibility. That’s exactly what happened after the slugger signed a five-year, $125 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels.
Not only did Hamilton struggle with his recovery, but he also suffered a pretty major shoulder injury. Hamilton went from an MVP candidate to hitting .255 with 31 home runs in two years with the Angels. After two seasons, he was shipped to the Texas Rangers for pennies on the dollar and eventually released.
Losing out on the bidding wars for free agents Ray Allen and Michael Redd, the Cleveland Cavaliers were desperate to find a guard to support young superstar LeBron James. The team went with its third option, signing Larry Hughes to a five-year, $70 million contract that would soon backfire.
Hughes was coming off a strong season with the Washington Wizards, but injury problems and a mediocre jump shot plagued Cleveland’s new guard. Hughes was not popular with fans, and he even had a fairly popular website named after him: Heylarryhughespleasestoptakingsomanybadshots.com.
In 2007, the New York Rangers signed Scott Gomez to a seven-year deal worth $51.5 million. At the time, it appeared to be a solid deal for one of the league’s most talented players. In fact, after a couple of good seasons, the Montreal Canadiens decided to trade for Gomez, hoping his addition would help the team become competitive.
Unfortunately, things did not work out too well. Gomez’s play on the ice quickly began to decline, and it hit a fever pitch when he went more than a year — from February 5, 2011, to February 9, 2012, without scoring a single regular-season goal.
Even Gilbert Arenas himself admits that the Washington Wizards probably paid him a bit more than he was able to deliver. The six-year, $111 million pact he signed with the team in 2008 was very regrettable, as he went from three-time All-Star to bench player.
To make matters worse, Arenas was suspended after bringing a gun into the Wizards’ locker room as well as charged with gun possession. Arenas’ off-the-court antics, as well as his inability to stay on the court due to injury, make this contract look like a real head-scratcher in hindsight.
Legendary New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady may well be responsible for Matt Cassel’s career. When the quarterback went down with a season-ending injury in the first week of the 2008 season, Cassel came to the rescue for New England and earned himself a massive payday at the end of the season.
The Kansas City Chiefs liked what they saw in Cassel and signed him to a six-year, $63 million contract — all because Cassel managed to keep a championship-caliber team afloat in New England. The success didn’t quite translate in Kansas City, where the quarterback went 19-28 in four seasons before he was eventually released.
He may be a true legend of the Philadelphia Phillies, but the way he went out with the team will always be a mark on the career of first baseman Ryan Howard. In 2010, Philly signed Howard to a regrettable five-year, $125 million deal that would immediately look like a mistake.
Howard was a postseason hero for Philadelphia in the team’s 2008 World Series run, but the magic didn’t last. He was passable in 2011, but Howard’s play sharply declined each ensuing season. By 2016, the first baseman was batting .196. It’s shocking the Phillies were even giving him at-bats at that point.
An Olympic gold medalist and four-time All-Star, Vin Baker seemed like the perfect signing for the Seattle Supersonics. Sure, the big man went through a couple of down years prior to his signing, but nothing too crazy. He couldn’t be that bad, right? As it turned out, the Sonics were wrong.
The contract Baker signed was for seven years and $86 million. Baker’s play consistently dropped for three seasons, and he also struggled with injuries and weight issues. In 2002, Seattle traded him to Boston, where his struggles with alcoholism came to light.
The 2008 NFL season was highlighted by a major trade, in which the Atlanta Falcons shipped superstar cornerback DeAngelo Hall to the Oakland Raiders for a couple of draft picks. Hall’s new team would immediately sign him to a seven-year, $70 million contract, with nearly $25 million guaranteed — a deal that wouldn’t last until the end of the calendar year.
Hall didn’t fit the Raiders’ system as expected, and he only managed to tally three interceptions in eight games. Less than eight months after they signed him to a massive extension, the Raiders decided they’d had enough of Hall. To make matters worse, the cornerback would immediately sign with the Washington Redskins and become a star player for years to come.
The Colorado Rockies have struggled to find competent pitching for most of their existence. So when a two-time All-Star in Denny Neagle became available in free agency, the team pounced. Colorado signed the hurler to a five-year, $51 million deal that would come to look really, really bad.
Not only did Neagle’s pitching ability seem to disappear when he signed in Colorado, but he became a bit of an embarrassment to his team. A 5.56 ERA over the first three years hurts, and so does missing the fourth year of the deal due to injury. But Neagle was eventually caught soliciting a prostitute, arrested for DUI, and mentioned in the Mitchell Report involving steroids.
The first overall pick of the 2010 NBA draft, John Wall became a superstar for the Washington Wizards, making five consecutive All-Star appearances from 2013-17. But unfortunately, all good things come to an end. The team signed the point guard to a four-year, $169 million contract extension five months after Wall’s last All-Star appearance — timing that would turn out to be terrible.
Wall had an extensive injury history prior to signing his contract, but it got way worse once he became one of the NBA’s richest players. To date, he has suited up for just 32 games since the end of the 2017-18 season and has had surgeries on his knee, ankle, and Achilles tendon.
New York Islanders center Alexei Yashin is best known for the blockbuster trade that brought him to Long Island. In June 2001, New York gave up defensive rookie Zdeno Chara (who would eventually make six All-Star appearances), Bill Muckalt, and the second pick in the 2001 NHL draft, used to pick two-time All-Star Jason Spezza.
Meanwhile, the team offered Yashin an unprecedented 10-year contract worth $87.5 million. Needless to say, it was a terrible trade. Who would’ve thought that locking up a player until his age-37 season could be a bit of a risk? The Islanders bought out Yashin’s deal in 2006, with four years remaining on the deal — meaning he’d be paid for another eight seasons.
Still fresh in the minds of New York Yankees fans, the Jacoby Ellsbury contract was an obvious misfire. Prying him away from the rival Boston Red Sox in free agency cost the team $153 million over a seven-year contract that was probably seven years too long.
Ellsbury never really lived up to the hype that surrounded him in Boston. During his six years with the Yankees, the outfielder hit .264 with 39 home runs, 198 runs batted in, and 102 stolen bases in 520 games. Ellsbury struggled to stay healthy and hasn’t taken the field since 2017, his fourth season in New York.
The Charlotte Hornets have handed out plenty of bad contracts, but this one is hard to defend. In 2016, the front office made the decision to sign Nicolas Batum to a five-year deal worth $120 million. Even at his peak, the wing was never the type of player who would command a $24 million annual salary.
Since signing his massive extension, Batum has not only seen the quality of his play decrease, but he has also struggled to stay on the court. By 2019, Batum was coming off the bench — despite being the team’s highest-paid player by a wide margin.
The Washington Redskins are no strangers to a bad signing. In 2006, the team made an extremely questionable decision, signing safety Adam Archuleta to a seven-year contract worth $35 million — with $10 million of it guaranteed the moment it was signed. Shocker: The deal didn’t work out.
Archuleta only lasted a single season in Washington, recording zero interceptions, one pass deflection, and a single sack. He only made seven starts before falling down the depth chart, despite being the highest-paid safety in the entire NFL. By March, he was shipped off to the Chicago Bears for a sixth-round pick.
Despite the fact that his career seemed to be going downhill, Wade Redden was apparently a hot commodity in the NHL. After all, that would explain the massive six-year, $39 million contract he signed with the New York Rangers. It was an immediately regrettable decision.
One New York Post writer called Redden’s deal “the worst in the history of the NHL,” with Redden scoring just 21 points (five goals) in two seasons with the Rangers. New York waived Redden to its minor league affiliate to create cap space, making him the highest-paid player in the history of the AHL.