Making big money is relatively easy for any NFL player, regardless of position. Every player risks their own personal welfare every time they step foot onto the gridiron, so why shouldn’t they be handsomely rewarded for their noble and enduring efforts? The million dollar paychecks find their ways to players’ bank accounts season after season, allotting to significant lump sums of cash just waiting to be conspicuously consumed; and with big bucks coming in, why not buy big things?
But let’s face it, some of these players are simply more trouble than they’re worth. Fines and suspensions in the NFL are a prominent fixture in every season despite the NFL’s animosity towards keeping a clean reputation in the world of sports. Millions of dollars of players’ salaries go down the drain for failing to meet the rules of conduct, both on and off the field. Although teams may not have to endure the financial burden that arises when a player commits an infraction, they do have to make adjustments accordingly to fill the spots of suspended players on their rosters; a difficult and complex task, as football is one of the more strategic team sports today.
However, it is unfair to say that all players in the NFL participate in wrong doings and misconducts. Some manage to stay perfectly clean, others experience minor incidences of moral slippage, while others persist in being repeat offenders time and time again. The most popular and reoccurring infraction committed by players is substance abuse.
This list will feature the top 15 NFL players who have accumulated the highest amounts of total fines during their careers, as well as the associated punishments to be served a result to the misconducts.
15 Vontaze Burfict
Vontaze Burfict is a tremendous talent on the field and when he channels his intensity well, he's a force, but often times, he can't. Burfict tends to lose his temper a lot, resulting in personal fouls and we saw a clear example of that in Cincinnati's wildcard round loss to Pittsburgh. Burfict had just intercepted a pass presumably to seal the game, but moments later, he delivered an unnecessary headshot to Antonio Brown, giving the Steelers 15 extra yards and leading to the Bengals' defeat. The Bengals always seem to take these kind of players and it often comes back to bite them.
14 Brandon Browner
Brandon Browner seems to be the kind of player who needs a stable environment to flourish, as he did in Seattle and his one season in New England. This past season, Browner set an NFL record by being penalized the most times in one season in 2015. This was all while the Saints had an atrocious defense, a defense Browner failed to improve when signing over from New England. He is expected to be released by the Saints this offseason.
13 Adam-Pacman Jones
In at number 13 is Adam Jones of the Cincinnati Bengels. To this date his professional fines add up to $1.78 million. The largest portion of this sum comes from 2007 when he was signed to the Tennessee Titans. While enjoying a night out at a strip club in Las Vegas, Jones was found guilty of attacking a stripper and threatening the life of a security guard who intervened the former act. For this he was suspended for 16 games. It is likely that this was the main reason for the Titans trading him to the Cowboys the following year.
12 Trent Williams
The 12th slot on the list belongs to Trent Williams of the Washington Redskins. Although he only has one infraction to his name, it’s a hefty one. In 2011 Williams, alongside teammate Fred Davis, was suspended and fined for repeatedly failing league drug testing. The type of substance was not disclosed at the time. The suspension lasted four games and the sum to be paid was $1.84 million.
11 Ben Roethlisberger
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger occupies number eleven on the list. In 2010 Roethlisberger was accused of violating the league’s player conduct policy by sexually assaulting a woman. He was suspended for the first four games that upcoming season and was fined just short of $1.89 million dollars. Other incidences of notable wrongful doings—though not punished for by the league—include operating a motorcycle without a license in 2006, resulting in severe injuries, and another sexual assault act in 2008.
10 Haloti Ngata
Haloti Ngata of the Detroit Lions tops the top 10 of the list. To this date his total fines in the NFL amount to just north of $2 million. In 2014 while competing for the Baltimore Ravens, he was found guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs. As a result, he saw himself suspended for four games and paid a fine of $2 million. Other more minor fines, throughout his career include three roughing the passer calls: against Tom Brady in 2009, against Ben Roethlisberger in 2010 and against Mark Sanchez in 2011.
9 Robert Mathis
Indianapolis Colt Robert Mathis claims the number nine spot on the list. Mathis has been fined twice: once in 2010 for roughing David Garrand, resulting in a $10,000 charge and in 2014 for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, resulting in a four game suspension and a $2.05 million fine. Mathis had issued a statement claiming that the substance taken was an unapproved fertility drug needed to conceive a child.
8 Josh Gordon
In at number eight is wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns, Josh Gordon. Gordon is notorious for his repetitive substance abuse, as he has been found guilty for this infraction in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 seasons. Alongside a violation of team rules in 2014, Gordon has accumulated total fines of $2.73 million as well as a collective 29 game suspension over the span of these years. Although he is only 24 years of age, he has stirred up quite a storm of bad publicity for himself and his team. If such behavior persists in the future, expect the Browns to relieve themselves of the burden.
7 Ray Rice
Ray Rice's NFL career seems to be over stemming from the elevator incident with his then-girlfriend, now wife, Janay Palmer. While Palmer has pleaded with the NFL and with society to give Rice a second chance, it seems nobody wants to take the chance. If not for the incident, even being a 29-year-old running back, that's not exactly the kind of commodity teams are looking for today. It seems that nobody in the NFL deems Rice's talent on the field is enough to offset the media circus signing him would bring.
6 Greg Hardy
The Carolina Panthers cut ties with Greg Hardy after he was indefinitely suspended for a domestic violence incident with his ex-girlfriend. When charges against him were dropped, the Panthers chose not to re-sign him and Hardy went to Dallas. This past season in Dallas, Hardy proved to be a constant distraction for the Cowboys. While he's immensely talented and can get after the quarterback, he doesn't seem like a guy who's worth the distraction he brings to his team.
5 D.J. Williams
Linebacker D.J. Williams takes the fifth spot on the list. The last team he signed with was the Chicago Bears; his three fines come from his 2012 season with the Denver Broncos. Two of these fines are related to performance enhancing drugs, while the third involves his third, at the time, incidence of driving under the influence. His fines total to just over $3 million and he was suspended for a span of 15 games all together.
4 Johnny Manziel
Johnny Manziel's rap sheet is already extensive and one wouldn't be surprised if he's already played his way out of the NFL. After his disastrous rookie season, Manziel checked himself into a rehabilitation facility and many were hoping he might have cleaned himself up. Other incidents include lying to his coaches about being in Las Vegas the night before a Browns game. The worst may have been an alleged domestic violence incident with his ex-girlfriend. Colleen Crowley has alleged that Manziel grabbed her and threw her in his car, threatening to kill both her and himself. Having someone like that around just isn't worth it for any team.
3 Daryl Washington
Third place belongs to inside linebacker of the Arizona Cardinals, Daryl Washington. His accumulated forfeited funds on fines add up to $3.58 million. In 2013 he was charged with his first substance abuse fine. Later that year he was also charged with roughing quarterback Cam Newton during a game. The following year he was found guilty of his second substance abuse charge, resulting in a $3 million fine and a full season suspension (16 games). Washington’s character was then called into question because of his statement, “I promise to work even harder and to not let you guys down anymore” after his first substance abuse fine.
2 Aldon Smith
Just coming up short of the number one spot on the list in Aldon Smith. $4.7 million is the total of fines paid by him throughout his career. Just over half of this amount belongs to a substance abuse fine in 2014 by the San Francisco 49ers, which was accompanied by a 9 game suspension. The other significant remains belong to a 2015 off-field personal misconduct, involving a DUI, hit and run, and vandalism issues in Santa Clara, California; this was not his first DUI offense and the 49ers released him from the organization the day following his arrest. Smith is also guilty of other chargers including possession of marijuana and illegal firearms and allegedly carrying a bomb at the Los Angeles International Airport; the charges on the latter were later dropped.
1 Dion Jordan
The top of the list belongs to none other than 2013 draftee and Miami Dolphin defensive end, Dion Jordan. Jordan’s total career fines paid to date sum up to a staggering $6.92 million. The most ludicrous thing about this is that this is only over a span of his three years in the league. 99.9% of these fines derive from substance abuse fines. His first two took place in 2014 and totaled around $1.6 million while the third took place in 2015 and totaled $5.2 million. The former resulted in a six game suspension while the latter resulted in an entire season's suspension. At 25 years of age, Jordan should think extensively about improving his behavior if he wishes to remove himself from the top of this list.