Most fans are familiar with the big numbers of NFL contracts, and they know the top players make boatloads of money. It seems like every time a franchise quarterback is signed he breaks the record for largest contract in history. This list consists of the stipulations and bonuses that are in the details of some of the weirdest contracts of all time. Some of these contracts are questionable signings and flat out ridiculous, and should have gotten people fired. Other contracts include just flat out bonkers clauses written in the details of the contract. A few players on this list actually justified their big money with their play on the field, but most players did not.
Some of the players on this list were chosen because their large signing bonuses and guaranteed money in their contracts were the most money in NFL history. Other players find spots on the list because they had weird add-ons in their contract like heavy performance incentives or even a weight restriction. In the copycat league of the NFL one player’s bonus can cause a ripple effect throughout the entire league. One player at a certain position getting paid will cause everyone else at that position to look for a pay increase as well. Some teams with players on this list have vastly overpaid a player because the market dictated a player’s contract. Other teams with players on the list gave big money to players they believed in that didn’t end up living up to their lofty contracts.
15. Rick Mirer
Many fans know Mirer as a first round bust for the Seattle Seahawks after he failed to live up to expectations when he was drafted number 2 overall back in 1993. That year when Mirer was drafted was the first year of the salary-cap era, and most teams did not know how this was going to effect their financial and roster situations. This uncertainty is what lead to Mirer’s contract being one of the weirdest of all-time. Agents Don Yee and Marvin Demoff tried to find a new structure to find a way to make Mirer’s deal a fully guaranteed contract (this still has not been achieved today.) The most creative way they did this was by writing the terms of the contract that would “survive and remain effective from the date of execution of this contract up to and including the end of the world.” Before them trying out this crazy idea in the NFL, this type of language was only seen in other industries like banking. The NFL commissioner in those days Paul Taglibue did not like this contract idea at all and disallowed it from the get go. This contract proposal also set a precedent for all contracts moving forward.
14. Jared Allen
One of the most recognized oddball characters over the last decade in the NFL has been Jared Allen. Allen’s number 69 somewhat represents the humorous side of his personality that he brought to the game when he was playing. The Minnesota Vikings realized this when they signed him away from the Chiefs in 2008 via free-agency. That is why they added on an extra $69 to his signing bonus making the total worth $15,500,069. Head coach of the Vikings at the time was Brad Childress figured that Allen would find the gesture funny. That initial contract eventually resulted in one of the best Vikings careers of all-time and lead to Allen becoming a major fan favourite. It won’t be a surprise if Jared Allen’s legendary number 69 eventually gets retired by the Minnesota Vikings.
13. Tavon Austin/Rams
Even though he looked like the most electric player in his draft class, the Rams drafted Tavon Austin too high when they selected him 11th overall back in the 2013 draft. Austin has underachieved his entire Ram career, so naturally they gave him a ton of guaranteed money and loaded his contract with on field incentives. Instead of giving Austin a normal 10.5 million dollar contract they gave him a random looking number like $10,555,501. In fact, they like when numbers are the same when read forward and backward. They also have had some weirdly named clauses in their recent contracts. One clause that comes to mind is the “Johnny Kickball” clause that Pro Bowl Johnny Hecker has in his contract. The man responsible for these wacky ideas is Tony Pastoors, the Rams’ senior assistant who handles player contracts. He believes this is a fun way to add a personal touch to a players contract.
12. Marcell Dareus
A lot of Bills were surprised when their team signed Dareus to a ludicrous contract back in 2014. The dominant defensive tackle was coming off of a solid season, but he had plenty of off the field issues and motivation problems. The Bills had the opportunity to put a clause in his contract that would void any money paid to him if he was suspended so the move would not be as risky. A lot of notable NFL players like Von Miller for example have this in their contracts. Instead they decided to trust Dareus and it came back to haunt them. Dareus eventually ended up getting suspended for violating the leagues substance abuse policy and has never been the same player since he got the big money.
11. Drew Bledsoe
It is not every day you see a 10-year contract in the NFL, but the Patriots saw the future when they locked up Bledsoe for 10 years and over 100 million dollars. In 2001 he signed what was then the largest contract in NFL history and Bledsoe was looked at as the face of the Patriots franchise for many years to come. At the time when he signed the contract, owner Robert Kraft said Bledsoe had the chance to be remembered in Boston like Ted Williams, Bill Russell and Larry Bird, each having played his entire career in the city of Boston. This was one of the first 100 million dollar contracts for any player and was just before the dominance of the Tom Brady era. Who knows what would have been if Bledsoe never got hurt.
10. Ndamukong Suh
Suh has signed two major money contracts in his career. One with the Detroit Lions and his current one with the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins thought they would have the best defensive line in the league pairing Suh with fellow defensive lineman Cameron Wake. So far that tandem has been up and down producing a playoff appearance last season and looking awful so far this year.
Suh was given the most guaranteed money of any non-quarterback when the Dolphins signed him in free agency in 2015. They’re probably regretting it now since he hasn’t really made that big of an impact on a Miami Dolphin team that hasn’t won their division in over ten years. To justify all the money Suh should be getting sack numbers and stopping the run like Aaron Donald does for the Rams. Suh has done nothing notable for a Dolphin team that is struggling to stay afloat this season.
9. Robert Griffin III
No one would’ve thought when Griffin and Kirk Cousins were drafted in the same year that Cousins would eventually be the face of the franchise. Especially after RGIII won rookie of the year and carried the Redskins to the playoffs in his first season. That season ended with injury woes and eventually lead to the end of Griffin’s career in Washington and the NFL entirely. In 2015, the Redskins exercised an option to extend RGIII for the 2016 season. He was essentially extended so that he could ride the bench for the Redskins and hand over the job to Kirk Cousins. They kept him on the bench because if he got injured they would have had to pay him his entire contract worth $16.2 million. Instead they cut him at the end of the year and only had to pay him what he was guaranteed in 2015 which was only $3.3 million.
8. Joe Flacco
After Joe Flacco’s 2013 Super Bowl run the Baltimore Ravens decided to lock up the quarterback for a long time, signing him to a six year contract worth $52 million guaranteed and $120.6 million total. They might be regretting that now considering Joe Flacco has been below average since then. At the time when Flacco signed it was one of the largest guaranteed money deals in the history of the NFL. Flacco got a lot of guaranteed money but had a team friendly cap number when he signed the contract at 6.8 million in 2013. The Ravens have looked decent to start the 2017 season but they are nowhere near being on of the top offences in the league. Flacco is paid like one of the top quarterbacks in the league, and he should carry the offence like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady do for their teams.
7. Tyrod Taylor
Tyrod Taylor would have made a ton of money from the Bills if he had gotten hurt in the last game of the Bills 2016 season. This contract stipulation is complicated because Taylor was already nursing a hurt shoulder going into the game, so the Bills decided to tell the quarterback to take a seat for the final game in fear of injury. Taylor still could have made his money if he didn’t pass a physical in the offseason but he ended up passing. If he was allowed to start the last game in 2016 and he was injured he could have made a $15.5 million bonus and $30.75 million guaranteed in salary. The Bills ended up extending Taylor’s contract in the offseason anyway, but not allowing him to start the last game of 2016 shows that they are unsure of the QB moving forward.
6. Matt Stafford
Matt Stafford set the record this offseason for the largest contract given to an NFL player at $27 million a year. The total value of Stafford’s contract is worth $135 million dollars which is also an NFL record. The Lions locked up their franchise quarterback who has grown into one of the best players at the position. The Lions are now a perennial playoff contender and it’s all because of Stafford, so the big money here is justified. Stafford’s deal is particularly important for setting the market for franchise starters moving forward. He is in the prime of his career and is consistently putting up solid passing numbers year after year. He is a perfect example of a player who is in their prime trying to cash in on possibly the last giant money deal of his career. Barring any significant injury, Stafford should be the engine that makes the Lions offence go for many more seasons to come.
5. Barry Sanders
The next Lion on this list, Barry Sanders was quite possibly the greatest running back of all time. Every inch he got and every dollar he received was warranted. He was the show during his tenure as a Lion and he knew it. Towards the end of his career he decided to skip training camp to lessen the damage to his body. One contract the Lions offered was going to pay him a bonus of $100,000 to show up, work out and lift weights with the team in the offseason. Like the legend that Barry is, he elected to just stay at home and the Lions kept their money. Sanders shocked the NFL world when he retired at the top of his game in 1998. Maybe it was because he was tired of carrying the team on his back and running behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league.
4. Eddie Lacy
Many NFL players love to indulge in offseason activities that they shouldn’t from time to time. In rare cases like Vince Wilfork and Eddie Lacy, over-eating is the activity that is worst for them to indulge in. It is for this reason that a weight clause was built into Lacy’s Seattle Seahawks contract this season. The clause in his contract is reportedly worth $385,000 based on him making the weight mark 7 different times throughout the season. That means he can earn $55,000 every time he hits a different weight benchmark. At the start of camp he had to weigh 255 pounds, then in June he had to weigh 250 pounds, then in September and for the rest of the season he has to weigh 245 pounds. In a recent interview with ESPN Lacy recently opened up about his struggle with weight and then public perception that comes with being an overweight NFL running back.
3. Akili Smith
Akili Smith is best known for being one of many Bengal busts at quarterback before they drafted Andy Dalton in 2012. Smith was drafted third overall in 1999 and he never lived up to the hype he had coming out of the University of Oregon. Smith had one of the more notable on field contract stipulations in 2000. If he would have thrown for 1,600 or more yards that season he would have made $4 million more dollars. This was a very substantial amount considering his annual salary was only $275,000. The main reason why Smith didn’t achieve his yardage total was because he was benched in the 11th game of the season with 6 more games to play he definitely had a chance to reach his mark. He only had 1,253 yards through ten games so the benching was warranted, but I’m sure the $4 million incentive was the main factor when making the decision to bench him.
2. Ricky Williams
Ricky Williams’ terrible rookie contract is somewhat his own fault, and it didn’t help that his agent was a rapper (Master P) who had very limited experience as an agent. Williams was one of the first notable clients of No Limit Sports Management and he essentially negotiated his own contract as a result of that. He had a very large signing bonus, which was to be expected for the fifth overall pick. However his whole salary was pretty much based off of on field production. With no formidable passing attack, Williams faced stacked odds his entire rookie season. Williams had off the field problems throughout his career, but did have one season as the NFL’s leading rusher with the Miami Dolphins. Williams was a lesson to many future players to sign with experienced established agencies rather than flashy start ups.
1. Steve young
It is very hard to believe that Steve Young’s first football contract had him getting paid through 2026. He retired in 1999 and is currently 55 years old, but this contract stipulation goes all the way back to Young’s rookie season when there was a bidding war for him between the USFL and the NFL. The USFL won the war so technically this wasn’t an NFL contract, but the two go hand in hand. Young signed for a then record $42 million which the NFL could not match as the number was astronomical in 1984. The team that signed Young, the LA Express didn’t have enough cash to pay out his contract initially so they made the contract length 42 years long. Then when the USFL collapsed after not being able to compete with the NFL for fans, Young decided to get as much money as he could before the league disappeared. He actually isn’t getting paid to play football anymore but is instead paid to analyze it on television.
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