In the world of professional sports it has not only been observed, but also accepted that athletes earn high salaries for their talent. From Floyd Mayweather ($420 million entering 2015) to Cristiano Ronaldo ($79.6 million) the headlines are teemed with stories of overpaid athletes. Whether they’re deserving, setting record numbers over the course of a season and scoring a salary to match, or simply capitalizing on the stupidity of a hapless general manager many are making some serious cash.
The professional sports industry is a multi-billion dollar a year industry and between tickets, merchandise sales, and advertising, many would argue that professional athletes are being paid exactly what they deserve. But while we assume every player who dons a uniform is making crazy bank that is not always the case. Take golf for example, win a lot you earn a lot. Don’t win and it can be hard to make a living.
It would be significantly easier to single out high profile duds and compile a list of overpaid athletes, but why not take a minuet to acknowledge their underpaid and underappreciated counter parts. The term underpaid is used loosely of course, when we say an athlete is underpaid by no means does this have anything to do with the fact that they have trouble making rent or paying bills. Obviously we’re talking about multimillionaires who not only earn hundreds of times more than the average Joe, but are paid 20 times more than what they would have made even a decade ago.
While there are many candidates to choose from across every professional team sport, these are the Top 15 Underpaid Athletes of 2015.
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15 Tom Brady
While his 2015 season will be reduced, Brady earns significantly less than several other of his quarterback peers, even though he is the reigning Super Bowl MVP and has been the best of his generation. No one will say an average of $9 million is low, but considering Alex Smith's base salary for 2015 will be more than that of Brady, that is a huge reflection of the bargain the Patriots get with Brady. Brady has often restructured his contracts to give his team the opportunity to surround him better. It sure worked last year, as they were able to make a key signing in Darrelle Revis, which proved to be the final piece of a Super Bowl team.
14 Andrew McCutchen
Andrew McCutchen heads into his fifth consecutive All-Star game this season and in the first half off this MLB season, has averaged .295 with 12 home runs and 56 RBIs. His OBP is regularly over .400 and his importance to the Pirates would make you think he makes more than $7.25 million, but McCutchen remains one of baseball's best bargains. He signed a six-year contract worth $51.5 million back in 2012, which will bring him through the 2017 season. We'll see if the Pirates are able to retain him at that point, as Pittsburgh usually operates with a very tight budget.
13 Roman Josi
Roman Josi really broke out this past season playing alongside one of the league's elite players in Shea Weber. At 25 years old, Josi averaged over 26 minutes a game this past season and scored 55 points. Some were throwing Josi's name around for a Norris Trophy, even pitting him ahead of Weber. However, Josi is paid just $4 million a year and the Predators have him under contract until 2020. Josi's going to be on plenty more of these lists in the next few years.
12 Mark Giordano
If Mark Giordano reaches free agency next season, he'll be one of the biggest free agent D-men in history, but it's unlikely the Flames will let that happen. Giordano was having a career year in 2014-15 and seemed like a lock for the Norris Trophy before a torn bicep sidelined him from February through the end of the season. Giordano averaged 25 minutes a night and registered 48 points in 61 games. Giordano won't be on this list next year, as you have to feel his next contract will be north of $7 million.
11 T.Y. Hilton
T.Y. Hilton is a former third round pick who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. When a third rounder exceeds expectations, it often means he'll be underpaid for the back end of the rookie contract. With 82 catches for 1,345 yards and eight touchdowns last season, you'd think Hilton deserves more than his $665,000 he's set to make for the 2015 season. Regarding a pay raise, Hilton told the Indianapolis Star: "If they want to pay me, they'll pay me," Hilton said, according to The Indianapolis Star. "It takes both sides to come to an agreement. I leave that up to my agent and just go out there and have fun."
10 Max Pacioretty
Some would say, reasonably so that Max Pacioretty is grossly underpaid. The 26-year-old winger leads the Montreal Canadiens in scoring with 35 goals and 64 points in 74 games and comes with a salary cap hit of $4.5 million. All while defenceman P.K. Subban signed the richest contract in franchise history, an eight-year, $72 million pact that gives him the highest average salary of any defenseman in the NHL. That's not to say Subban is overpaid, but it's a vast difference between one of the elite defencemen of the league and one of the elite scoring wingers. This makes Pacioretty one of the bigger bargains in the league.
9 Muhammad Wilkerson
Professional athletes are known for speaking out about their contracts, and some NFL players are vastly underpaid. Wilkerson is currently making $6.97 million on his fifth-year option. One of the top 3-4 ends in the league, Wilkerson should command in excess of $10 million annually. Cam Jordan, an inferior player, landed a five-year extension worth up to $60 million from the Saints.
8 Tony Allen
Since entering the league in 2005 Allen has always been one of the best defenders in the NBA, Kobe Bryant even acknowledged Allen this season by saying, “He plays harder than everybody else defensively”. But despite such praise and despite the fact that the Memphis Grizzlies are in-arguably better with him on the court, Allen earned just $4.8 million this past season and will see $5.1 million in 2015-16. Pennies for one of the best defenders in the league.
7 Jakub Voracek
If you’re a Flyers fan you already know Jakub Voracek is the real deal and that re-signing the 25-year-old is a no-brainer after he had another tremendous season in 2014-15. He has one year remaining on a contract that will see him make $4.5 million and is due for a big raise after recording 62 points in 2013-14 and 81 points in 2014-15, putting him at a tie for fourth in the NHL scoring race alongside Alex Ovechkin (10 million USD). It doesn't seem fair that Vinny Lecavalier makes more than him.
6 Manny Machado
There’s no questioning how Baltimore Orioles third baseman feels about his MLB contract. “I’d love to be an Oriole forever,” Machado stated back in 2014. “I love the organization, I love the fans here. I love everything about this, and putting the uniform on every day. I just want to be treated fairly. That’s it.” Drafted in round 1 (no.3 overall) in 2010, Machado will earn a base salary of $548,000 in 2015. Sounds good to you and I but when you compare that to Paul Goldschmidt ‘s current $3.08 million salary or Bryce Harper’s $2.5 million alary it’s easy to question whether Machado is under his market value.
5 John Tavares
John Tavares might just be the best bargain in hockey. The New York Islanders captain ranks second behind Jamie Benn for the league lead in points, but carries a salary cap hit below $6 million. With two nominations for the Hart Trophy in three years, expect a dramatic pay increase when his contract runs out. What he's done for the Islanders franchise is admirable, as he committed to the organization on a long-term contract at a young age.
4 Tyler Seguin
Tyler Seguin doesn’t get enough credit. Not only does he lead the NHL in goal-scoring, but he led the World Hockey Championships in goals with nine in 10 games and helped Canada win the gold medal. Seguin has an annual salary cap hit of $5.75 million until the end of the 2018-19 season and while the 23-year-old is averaging more than a point per game that’s a pretty good deal for the Stars. When the day for his next contract comes, expect Seguin to make up for these years of earning below his market value.
3 Russell Wilson
Wilson officially went from being a "bargain" to being "underpaid." Whilst the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens believe that Super Bowl caliber quarterbacks are worth around $100 million, the Seattle Seahawks think the number is a little less. That’s right one of the NFL’s lowest-paid starting quarterbacks is the same guy who has led the Seattle Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances and neither the Seahawks or Wilson should be comfortable going into 2015 knowing that. To say that the Seahawks are getting a bargain would be an understatement.
2 LeBron James
NBA superstars are underpaid compared to the revenue they generate for their teams and the league. This is a fact. Not only is LeBron underpaid for his skills on the court, but for the money he makes the Heat off of the hardwood. LeBron recently signed a new two-year deal with the Cavs in anticipation of an increased cap in the near future. While the contract is worth over $20 million a year, LeBron's importance to his team more than that of any other player in any team sport.
Double LeBron’s contract and he’s still underpaid.
1 Stephen Curry
Now, let’s make something clear: Curry isn’t hurting by any means. Curry has two more seasons on his current deal and is set to earn $11.37 million for the 2015-16 campaign and $12,.1 million for the 2016-17 campaign.
When Stephen Curry inked a four-year, $44 million extension with the Golden State Warriors in 2012, it was a favorable deal to both parties at the time. While this is a lot of money and many of us would switch bank accounts with him in a heartbeat, Curry is severely underpaid by NBA standards coming in as the fourth highest player on his own team (he will drop to the sixth-highest paid next season). For Curry, the trade-off for being underpaid was the security of knowing where he will be playing through the 2016-17 season after injuries threatened to derail his career. But that didn’t happen.
The Golden State Warriors point guard exploded in ways that were unthinkable just months prior and was the NBA’s 2014-15 Most Valuable Player and a unanimous selection for the All-NBA First Team. He broke several records this year – making the most threes in a single regular season and in a single postseason – and led the Warriors to the NBA Championship for the first time since 1975. Any advantage will end for the Warriors in 2017 when Curry becomes a free agent and re-signing him will cost them over $30 million per season. It’s clear the 26-year-old is in line for a major raise.
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