10 NFL Stars Who Foolishly Burn Money (And 5 Who Pinch Pennies)

NFL players are notorious for earning huge amounts of money. Rookies who sign on with a team can effortlessly make well into the millions. For established players, with promotional deals and bonuses, that number largely increases. One of the highest paid NFL players of 2017 was Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions with a reported $27,000,000 salary. For a beginning rookie with no experience under his belt, they receive a minimum salary of $465,000!

With all that money in their pocket, making extravagant purchases can seem effortless. The hard part is knowing when to stop spending and to start saving. The story of billionaire athletes going bankrupt is one becoming far too common. We’ve seen big name NFL stars, like Warren Sapp and Luther Elliss end up completely broke after retirement. We watched on as former millionaires like Chad Johnson bought ridiculous items, like a more than $115,000 semi-truck, all while slowly losing it all.

On the other side of the curve, we have sports stars who are excellent at saving money. Some of these athletes live off less than $50,000 a year while raking in millions. Some NFL players are noted for saving more than 70 percent of their earned salary.

The bankrupted and broke desperately warn NFL newcomers to be careful with their money and how they choose to invest or spend it. Sometimes it is easier said than done. Here are 10 NFL stars who have no issues burning through money and five who like to pinch those pennies tight.

15 Burns Money: Dez Bryant 

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Dez Bryant is the 29-year-old wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys. In 2017, his base-salary was reported to be $13 million! When Bryant was still a rookie to the NFL and the Cowboys, he became quickly known for being stupid with money. In 2011, Bryant was sued by a jeweller for $200,000 worth of unpaid for jewelry. Just days later, he was sued again… for more jewelry, totalling $800,000 worth of jewelry not paid for.

Fast forward five years to 2016, and Dez Bryant is spotted spending more money on jewelry. He spent $200,000 on new, custom jewelry to celebrate another year signed with the Cowboys. However, in 2017 Dez Bryant was no longer playing like the star player he was in the beginning of his career with the NFL, and this has many questioning if the Cowboys, or any other team, can afford his high-priced salary any longer.

14 Burns Money: Emmanuel Sanders

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Denver Broncos’ wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is one player who loves to spend money to have nice things, no matter the cost. He can be found on his social media accounts flaunting his recent purchases, such as nice cars or jewelry. His 2017 cash payout came in around $6 million, so he does have lots of money in his pockets.

Sanders not only likes to spend tons of money on himself, but he also reportedly spends thousands and thousands of dollars on his “side chicks,” according to his estranged wife. He even allegedly purchased a vehicle for one of his girlfriends. Aside from his bad spending habits, Sanders has also spent large amounts of money for good causes. He and some of his teammates have dedicated their time and money to help those in Sanders' home state of Texas recover from Hurricane Harvey. Sanders, himself, contributed $25,000 toward relief efforts.

13 Pinches Penny: Andrew Luck

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Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck has loads of luck when it comes to money. He is one of the highest players in the NFL and signed a $123 million contract extension in 2016. It also came with a $32 million signing bonus! Not only does he have contract money, he also signed up for a bunch of endorsement deals, including one with Nike, DirecTV, and BodyArmor.

You wouldn’t be able to tell exactly how rich he is by looking at him on the street, though. Luck insists on using a flip phone rather than the latest smartphone and he can be seen riding around on a bicycle rather than some hotrod or sports car. He says it’s not about the money for him; it’s all about living comfortably and he has comfort now.

12 Burns Money: Ezekiel Elliott

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Dallas Cowboys’ running back, Ezekiel Elliott is no stranger to stirring up controversy both on and off the field. He was Dallas’ number four overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and signed a four-year contract for $6 million a year and a $16.3 million signing bonus. In December 2016, to celebrate the good feelings of winning and the holidays, Elliott went out and purchased “matching” necklaces for him and teammate Dak Prescott. “Grind together. Shine together,” is how Elliott described his purchase.

In 2017, Elliott faced a six-game suspension that means he will most likely have to pay back a portion of his signing bonus that could add up to over $1.4 million. He also loses his base-salary. His guaranteed millions deal is voided. He may soon be out of money, so smart purchases would be a good idea for this running back.

11 Burns Money: Adrian Peterson

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Drafted into the NFL in 2007, Adrian Peterson, now playing running back for the Arizona Cardinals, has turned heads everywhere with his spending. While he was playing for the Vikings, Peterson defaulted on quite a large loan of $2.4 million; who knows what that money was needed for. According to a lawsuit, Minneapolis-based Crown Bank claimed Peterson took out the loan in May 2016 and defaulted on it in October. After failing to comply by the bank’s demands and not paying off the loan by the agreed time, the bank is still seeking $600,000.

Peterson’s money troubles may have began after a separate child injury charge accused him of abusing his son. While he now plays with the Cardinals, the running back will be making somewhere around $700,000 a year.

10 Pinches Pennies: Rob Gronkowski

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Rob Gronkowski is the tight end for the New England Patriots and he claims he hasn’t touched any of his NFL contract money or signing bonus money. In 2012, Gronkowski signed a $54 million, six-year contract and included an $8 million signing bonus. That’s a lot of money to be saving!

Gronkowski lives solely off his endorsement deals. He has signed on to many different deals outside of the NFL, including BodyArmor and Dunkin’ Donuts. He has admitted he doesn’t like to spend big money on expensive cars or jewelry or tattoos and enjoys the simpler things of life. Just last year, Gronkowski and the Patriots came to an agreement on a reconstructed contract that could make him the highest paid tight end in the NFL, only adding more to the millions of dollars piling up in his bank account.

9 Burns Money: James Harrison

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The New England Patriots linebacker spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on one unusual practice. James Harrison drops $350,000 a year to stay looking and feeling young. With his “legendary” workouts, Harrison flies a number of specialists out to help work on his body. These specialists include an acupuncturist, three massage therapists, two chiropractors, a dry needle specialist, and a person who does “cupping.” Yep, the big bad 39-year-old linebacker likes “cupping.”

Usually players spend lots of money on healthy habits and staying in shape. But when you’re pushing 40 and reaching the end of your career, throwing money toward making your career last longer could be worth every penny. When the Patriots picked Harrison up after his abrupt departure from the Steelers, Harrison signed on for $1 million.

8 Burns Money: Tom Brady

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When you’re Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots and five-time Super Bowl winner, you have the luxury to blow through tons of money and that’s just what he does. Brady is believed to be the third-highest-paid player in NFL history, with his already earned $197.2 million in his career. He also makes millions every year with endorsements.

Tom Brady and his wife, supermodel Gisele Bündchen once purchased a custom built $20 million mansion in L.A. It came with everything from a moat to chicken coops. But they sold that place and found love with a skyscraper condo in NYC for just $11.7 million. But once again, they moved. This time to a $20 million waterfront property in Tribeca. From house to house and nice cars, Brady and his family sure do like to make huge purchases.

7 Pinches Pennies: Kirk Cousins

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Kirk Cousins is quarterback for the Washington Redskins and made around $23,000,000 in 2017. What did he do with his money? Not much, as Cousins is infamous for being cheap. He drives around his grandparents’ 17-year-old GMC Savana van (that he bought for $5,000) and spends his summers living with his wife in his parents’ basement.

Cousins lives a very frugal life and shares an important money lesson. Just because you earn a big paycheque doesn’t mean you have to spend like you do. Cousins realizes he doesn’t have forever with the NFL, so he tries to save as much money as he can now. He and his wife plan to invest in real estate and finally purchase their own home when the time is right.

6 Burns Money: Aaron Rodgers

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Aaron Rodgers is quarterback for the Green Bay Packers and kind of a big shot when it comes to money spending. Apparently, quarterbacks rewarding their offensive lineman has become the “it” thing to do these days, and Rodgers didn’t miss that memo. The star quarterback bought his entire offensive line high-end, $20,000 ATVs for Christmas last year!

Don’t worry about Rodgers, though. He otherwise seems pretty levelheaded when it comes down to spending habits. He opened up about realizing that a signing bonus and contract moves people from having literally nothing to being in the upper of the upper class. He stated that it’s about being smart in navigating friends from people who just want money. According to Forbes, Rodgers signed a five-year, $110 million deal in 2013, making him the highest-paid player in the NFL on an annual basis!

5 Burns Money: Vince Young

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Vince Young played in the NFL for six seasons after being drafted by the Tennessee Titans as the third overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft. Young won big with a $58 million deal, or so he thought. His career ended in 2011 and he began to feel the repercussions of his bad money spending habits.

During his rookie season, he splurged big time. Young was notorious for visiting the Cheesecake Factory at least once a week and spent near $5,000 each time. Young would buy every seat on an airplane, just because he wanted peace on his flights. His spending habits were out of control; he even took out a $300,000 loan to throw himself a birthday party. It was a situation no financial advisor could help. Vince Young was no longer a phenomenon. He became known for going completely broke and bankrupt.

4 Pinches Pennies: Glover Quin

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Detroit Lions’ safety Glover Quin signed a five-year $23.5 million contract. He is in his fourth year and had a 2017 cash payout of $6,900,000. Quin reportedly lives off of just 30 percent of his salary and has invested 70 percent. From the moment he entered the NFL in 2009, Quin was money savvy and very smart with investments. He has now managed to double his earnings.

Prior to entering the NFL, Quin majored in business at the University of New Mexico and learned quite a bit of helpful financial information. He knows he doesn’t have forever in the NFL, so he plans to save as much money as he can and spend as little as he can so that his future is secure.

3 Burns Money: Sammy Watkins

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The Los Angeles Rams’ wide receiver Sammy Watkins isn’t happy with the amount of money NFL players get paid and he has definitely voiced his opinion. He believes it isn’t fair NBA players make more money than NFL players when the NFL makes more money. His 2017 cash payout was $690,000. In the beginning of his NFL career, he gained the reputation of being a diva who complained about the way he was being treated during games. Now, as he has been traded over to the Los Angeles Rams from the Buffalo Bills, a new Sammy Watkins is being seen by the public.

After locking in a contract that will pay him near $20 million, Watkins agreed to drop a huge amount ($1 million!) of money for his brother’s bail money. Helping family is important, but Watkins needs to be careful with his spending habits.

2 Burns Money: Antonio Brown

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This Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver became the highest-paid WR in the NFL in 2017. Antonio Brown reached an agreement with the Steelers on a four-year, $68 million extension. He is now tied with the Steelers until 2021, but that doesn’t sound like such a bad thing. He has tweeted out that he is “Steelers for life.”

This Steelers player knows he’s worth big bucks and likes to showcase it. He once showed up to training camp riding in a flashy vintage Rolls Royce driven by a chauffeur. His extravagant lifestyle doesn’t end with him; he purchased a nine-year-old son, Antonio Jr., a Rolex and made sure to show if off to the world over snapchat. He received much criticism over that purchase, but some came to the NFL star’s defence stating it’s his money to spend how he wants.

1 Pinches Pennies: Jordy Nelson

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Green Bay Packers’ wide receiver Jordy Nelson is big on living simply and helping others. He has an estimated net worth of $24 million and yet, still chooses to “work” two jobs. When he’s not playing for the Packers, Nelson can be found breaking a sweat herding cattle on his family’s farm. He enjoys spending his time helping his family earn a living. He takes cheaper flights outside of Green Bay to save money and lives in a “junked up” home.

Nelson has personally described himself as “extremely cheap.” He is a country boy at heart and doesn’t want to change. When other players go out on the town and get per diems on the road, he chooses to stay in the hotel and snack on foods rather than spend money.

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