In the world of sports, there may be no more fun, exciting, nerve-wracking and absurd time than during free agency. Whether it is in the NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL, seeing players swap jerseys, uniforms and sweaters brings mixed emotions.
However, not every free agent signing works out for the franchise in the way they hoped. There have been plenty of instances in the past where organizations have regretted dishing out millions of dollars to players who either A) don't deserve it or B) don't live up to the hype.
In the NFL, recent contract signings such as Torrey Smith to the San Francisco 49ers or Lamarr Houston to the Chicago Bears didn't go as the teams planned. Similarly, the MLB has their fair share of bad deals as well. You don't have to look that far back to see how pacts like Josh Hamilton and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim or Joey Votto and the Cincinnati Reds have backfired greatly.
Those problems don't only exist in the NFL and MLB. In terms of the NBA, Amar’e Stoudemire’s massive contract with the New York Knicks and Rashard Lewis’s mega deal with the Orlando Magic ended up just as bad as people thought when the ink hit the paper. The NHL, too, has had its fair share of terrible contract signings; think Rick DiPietro of the New York Islanders or Wade Redden of the neighboring New York Rangers.
The deals mentioned above were bad - but there are still plenty of terrible deals going on today. Check out this list of the top 20 worst contracts in sports today.
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20 Ndamukong Suh - Six Years, $114 Million
It’s tough to call defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh’s newly signed contract with the Miami Dolphins a bust; after all, he is less than one season into the deal. However, all signs are pointing to the pact becoming one of the worst in sports.
After becoming one of the most dominant and fearsome forces on the defensive side of the football with the Detroit Lions, he bolted the team who drafted him this offseason to chase the money. Who wouldn’t? After all, Suh was rewarded with the largest contract for a defensive football player in the history of the NFL.
Not only have the Dolphins regressed both on defense and as an overall team, Suh has also taken a step back. Ranked as the 17th best defensive tackle by Pro Football Focus, Suh has lacked the explosiveness and dominance that he possessed with the Lions. On top of that, Suh has been known for “freelancing” plays this season, while also reportedly telling the rest of the Dolphins defense that they don't belong on the same field as him.
19 Omer Asik - Five Years, $58 Million
Sure, it is known that the NBA’s salary cap is going to rise in the upcoming years. However, the New Orleans Pelicans paid a hefty price for Omer Asik, who has the skill set better suited to be a backup center rather than one of the highest paid players at his position.
Although he has a strong defensive presence, that is, by far, the strongest part of his game. Not only is he basically inept at the offensive end, but he also shoots at 56% from the free throw line. Due to lingering injury issues, Asik’s contract looks like it will be a huge bust in the years to come.
18 Dion Phaneuf - Seven Years, $49 Million
When the Toronto Maple Leafs awarded captain Dion Phaneuf a seven-year, $49 million contract extension it seemed like the right move. After all, Phaneuf was one of the best defenseman in the NHL at that time, and he would have been offered contracts from a multitude of teams as a free agent.
Unfortunately, after inking the deal, Phaneuf has gone down in all facets of his game; in the 2014-15 season, he had a career low 29 points. While he has regained form under Mike Babcock, Phaneuf is paid like a number one defenseman, while he clearly is playing like someone on the second pairing.
17 David Price - Seven Years, $217 Million
It seems the Boston Red Sox have become the new Yankees in terms of spending money on high priced free agents. In search of quality starting pitching, Boston has dished out $217 million for David Price over seven years. While Price has consistently been one of the best aces in the regular season, his play has always dipped off come playoff time. When you're paying $217 million for a pitcher, you expect some postseason gems along the way. The Red Sox will be disappointed. Price hasn't even played a game yet in a Red Sox uniform, but dishing out this kind of money for a pitcher now on the wrong side of 30 screams disaster.
16 Jay Cutler - Seven Years, $126.7 Million
Although he had previously shown inconsistencies with in his past, Jay Cutler’s big play ability and flashes of brilliance earned him a seven-year, $126.7 contract extension with the Chicago Bears in January of 2014.
Unfortunately, the season after signing the huge deal, Cutler began to regress. In the 2014-15 season, the quarterback led the league in interceptions (18) while going 5-10. His play has improved this season under OC Adam Gase, but Cutler has never proven to be an elite QB, even though he's making elite money.
15 Justin Verlander - Seven Years, $180 Million
At the time of starting pitcher Justin Verlander’s seven-year, $180 million extension with the Detroit Tigers, he was the highest paid pitcher in league history. However, the money was warranted. It was obvious that Verlander was one of if not the best pitcher in the game at that time.
The 2013 season appeared to justify the massive deal. Verlander started the most games in his career, had a 3.46 ERA and was named to the All-Star team. However, it has been downhill since. Over the last two seasons, Verlander has a combined 20-20 record while giving up over four runs per game. Injuries have also begun to creep into the picture. Could Verlander still be serviceable? Yes, but his contract and age will hurt the franchise.
14 Mike Smith - Four Years, $32 Million
Mike Smith showed flashes of an emerging goalie in Dallas and Tampa Bay, but really emerged after signing with Arizona in 2011.
In his first season with the Coyotes, Smith posted career numbers and led the team to the Western Conference Finals. Due to those efforts, the organization awarded Smith with a six-year, $34 million extension.
Unfortunately, those numbers Smith posted in the 2011-12 campaign have still been his career highs. While the team in front of him hasn't been good, Smith hasn't helped the cause. Just last season, Smith set highs in the wrong categories, as he had the most losses (42) and goals against (187) in a season. At 33, it doesn't look like Smith has any more upside.
13 Andrew MacDonald - Six Years, $30 Million
After being drafted by the New York Islanders in 2006, defenseman Andrew MacDonald showed the ability to be a sound defensive presence while chipping in on offense. In five seasons on Long Island, MacDonald proved that he was a serviceable defenseman.
In his contract year, the Islanders sought trade value for MacDonald. The team sent him to the Philadelphia Flyers, who promptly inked MacDonald to a six-year, $30 million contract.
The contract was questionable at the time and has only gotten worse. MacDonald totaled just 12 points in 58 games last year. His struggles have continued this year, as the 29-year old was even sent down to the AHL after being put on waivers.
12 Joe Johnson - Six Years, $123.7 Million
While with the Phoenix Suns and Atlanta Hawks, Joe Johnson proved that he could be a great secondary scorer in the NBA; his offense made him a highly sought-after man during the free agent frenzy of 2010.
With stars like LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dirk Nowitzki receiving huge contracts, the Hawks followed that trend with Johnson. Little did everyone realize, after free agency concluded, Johnson’s six-year, $123.7 million deal would make him the highest paid player in the game.
Johnson has continued to score at a high clip, even since being traded to Brooklyn, but an above average scorer does not deserve more than the likes of LeBron or Steph Curry.
11 Troy Tulowitzki - Ten Years, $153 million
The shortstop position in baseball is one that lacks true star power however, the Colorado Rockies realized that Troy Tulowitzki was one of the best in the game, as they rewarded him with a 10-year, $158 million contract extension before the 2010 season - and he eventually made even more money due to contract extensions.
With his contract appearing untradeable, the Rockies were able to send him the Toronto Blue Jays this past trade deadline. Unfortunately, not only did he hit just .239 with the team, but the injury bug continued to plague him. To add salt to the wound, Tulowitzki is owed $20 million in each of the next four seasons.
10 Rick Porcello - Five Years, $82.5 Million
With a lack of quality starting pitching on the Boston Red Sox roster, the organization decided to ship enigmatic outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Detroit Tigers to acquire pitcher Rick Porcello, who was good, but not great in six seasons.
Despite average career number, the Red Sox signed Porcello to a four-year, $82.5 million contract. Porcello failed to live up to his newly found expectations due to his massive contract. Dealing with injuries towards the end of the season, Porcello went 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA in 2015, both career-worsts.
9 Dave Bolland - Five Years, $27.5 Million
Starting out his career with the Chicago Blackhawks, center Dave Bolldand was one of the most unheralded players on the roster. Typically playing as a third line center, Bolland’s checking abilities helped lead the Blackhawks to two Stanley Cup Championships in his tenure.
During the 2013 offseason, Bolland was shipped to the Toronto Maple Leafs. After having just 12 points in 23 games, the Leafs decided to not offer a strong deal to Bolland. Because of this, the center accepted a five-year, $27.5 million contract with the Florida Panthers.
Many knew this was too much for a career third line center and its proven to be the case as Bolland continues to play on the third line.
8 Enes Kanter - Four Years, $70 Million
Enes Kanter was deemed ineligible to join the Kentucky Wildcats for college, but his overseas play still earned him a high draft selection, as the Utah Jazz selected him third overall in 2011.
While he showed flashes as a versatile scorer and rebounder, the emergence of Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert limited Kanter’s playing time. The Jazz shipped Kanter to the Oklahoma City Thunder last season at the trade deadline. In his half of a season with the Thunder, Kanter continued to impress.
Due to a strong impression, the Thunder matched the Portland Trail Blazers offer of four-years and $70 million. Kanter is still unproven and has a lot of money owed to him.
7 Ryan Zimmerman - Six Years, $100 Million
In the early stages of the Washington Nationals, there was a lack of impact players on the roster. However, homegrown talent Ryan Zimmerman went from a strong player to a man who was able to give the organization some credibility.
Playing both third and first base, Zimmerman won both Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards while being the strongest player in a weak Nationals lineup. The Nationals felt that they owed him for being such a reliable player. In 2012, they signed Zimmerman to a six-year, $100 million extension. Unfortunately, just a few years removed from the extension, Zimmerman has become tremendously injury prone with his batting average decreasing.
6 Julius Thomas - Five Years, $46 Million
Similar to that of Ndamukong Suh, tight end Julius Thomas took the money this offseason, leaving contending Denver Broncos to become a bigger part of the offense with the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars.
With Peyton Manning throwing him the ball, Thomas emerged as one of the best threats from the tight end position, as he combined to haul in 108 receptions and 24 touchdowns in 2013 and 2014.
However, many questioned the Jags' decision to sign him, as many believed he was a product of Manning. That has proven to be the case this season, as Thomas has run into injury problems and limited production.
5 Colin Kaepernick - Six Years, $126 Million
The San Francisco 49ers felt that they need more upside at quarterback in the 2012 season. When Alex Smith went down with a concussion, they turned the reigns over to Colin Kaepernick and never looked back, even when Smith was healthy.
In his first season, Kaepernick emerged as one of the best dual threat quarterbacks in the NFL. With a cannon for an arm, he threw 21 touchdowns to eight interceptions, leading his team to a 12-4 record and a Super Bowl berth. The 49ers rewarded Kapernick, as the two sides agreed to terms on a six-year, $126 million contract extension.
However, since signing the deal, Kaepernick has struggled to improve his game. After a mediocre 2014 season, Kaepernick's play further regressed before being benched and soon placed on injured reserve.
4 Carmelo Anthony - Five Years, $124 Million
When a superstar over 30 gets signed to a massive extension, more likely than not the franchise is paying for what the player has already done and not what they will do in the future.
Anthony’s resume is filled with great accomplishments. When he was traded to the Knicks, he was supposed to revitalize the franchise. While he brought the team to the playoffs three times, Anthony has never been able to get the Knicks past the second round.
At 30 years old, many questioned why the Knicks, in rebuilding mode, would dish out so much to an aging superstar. Those sentiments were echoed last season, as not only was the team one of the worst in the NBA, but Anthony needed knee surgery, which made him a step slower. While he has shown signs of his old form thus far this season, this contract is still one of the worst.
3 David Clarkson - Five Years, $36.75 Million
Heading into the 2013 offseason, forward David Clarkson was a player that everyone would like to have on their team. With the New Jersey Devils, Clarkson proved to be a physical presence on the forecheck while also contributing on the offensive end, typically as a second or third line winger.
Sure, he is someone that everyone would love on their team, but to pay him like a franchise superstar was a poor decision on the Toronto Maple Leafs part, as they signed him to a five-year, $36.75 million deal.
Unsurprisingly, Clarkson failed tremendously at justifying his contract - and that was entirely the fault of the Toronto brass. The Maple Leafs regretted the contract so badly that they worked a deal out with the Columbus Blue Jackets to acquire Nathan Horton - who may never play again.
2 Byron Maxwell - Five Year, $63 Million Contract
Like both Ndamukong Suh and Julius Thomas, cornerback Byron Maxwell, too, cashed in on a free agent deal, as he signed a massive six-year, $63 million contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, with the hopes that he would develop into a number one cornerback; key word - hoped.
Starting as part of the Legion of Boom with the Seattle Seahawks, Maxwell proved to be a physical player while also gaining experience by playing in consecutive Super Bowl games.
Unfortunately, things haven’t worked out for either the Eagles or Maxwell so far. Not only have the Eagles underperformed across the board, but it isn't uncommon to see Maxwell get beaten by the oppositions top receivers. Sure, he still has time to justify his deal, but you can't give someone that large of a deal when they’re still unproven.
1 Robinson Cano - 10 Years, $240 Million
There are many bad contracts throughout the sports world today. However, there may be none worse than the one given to second basemen Robinson Cano by the Seattle Mariners, as the two agreed to terms on a ten-year, $240 million contract before the 2014 season began.
It seemed reasonable for the best second baseman and one of the best hitters in the game. While playing for the Yankees, Cano combined to slash .309/.355/.504 to go along with 204 home runs, five All-Star appearances and two Gold Gloves.
The Yankees didn't want to go 10 years, so Cano went to the Mariners. Unfortunately, things haven’t worked out. After a solid first campaign, Cano struggled to his standards in 2015. Hitting just .287, his numbers were down, while also showing signs of apathy. The 33-year-old still has eight years left on his deal and there have been recent rumors that he is unhappy in Seattle and would love to return to the Yankees.
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