Professional sports is a multi-billion dollar business. Several teams, including the Dallas Cowboys and the Manchester United soccer team in Europe, are worth well over US$1 billion each. As a result, players are able to garner multi-million dollar annual contracts for their services. Below are five contracts that proved especially costly to the underlying team when these players were injured or had personal problems.
In October 2011, quarterback Peyton Manning signed a five-year, $90 million contract with the Indianapolis Colts. The deal made him the highest paid NFL player at the time and worked out to $18 million per year. It was to be front-end loaded at an average of approximately $23 million per year for the first three years, but Manning ended up being unable to play because a neck surgery performed during the off season failed to heal properly. Earlier this year, the Colts elected to cut Manning and draft a rookie quarterback to start a rebuilding process. One source listed the payout to Manning at $23.4 million, which included a $20 million signing bonus and $3.4 million for the 2011 season that he sat out as injured. The Colts may not have wanted to gamble on Manning's recovery, but the Denver Broncos were perfectly fine taking the chance and recently signed him to a five-year, $96 million deal. The cost to the Colts, including losing one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, has also so far included a drop in ticket sales.
Though not considered a true injury, Lamar Odom's brief stint with the Dallas Mavericks certainly goes down as one of the most bizarre. The Mavericks signed Odom to a four-year deal. However, Odom left the team in April under an agreement between the two parties. Odom was in a car crash during the off season and had a number of other personal issues to work out. He was also criticized at one point for not being in game condition to start the season. According to basketball-reference.com, the move cost the Mavericks an estimated $8.9 million for the season where he didn't play, or contribute much when he did.
Back in 2007, the Portland Trailblazers chose center Greg Oden as the number one draft pick in that year's NBA draft. Knee injuries resulted in Oden playing a very small fraction of games and resulted in him being waived by the team earlier this year. The estimated total cost, which included a re-signing in hopes that Oden would eventually be healthy enough to play, was recently pegged at just over $20 million. Oden plans to miss the coming year, but could end up signing with another team if and once he is healthy.
Though also not technically a sports injury, the Atlanta Falcons cut ties with quarterback Michael Vick back in 2009 after he was sent to prison for operating a dog fighting ring. Vick had signed a 10-year, $130 million deal back in 2004, which included close to $20 million in signing bonuses. The Falcons were able to claw back some of the bonus, but lost an estimated $13 million as well as its star quarterback. As with Manning, the loss also required rebuilding and the loss of fan support.
Schmidt was a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers and was injured in the middle of 2007. The prior offseason he signed a three-year contract for $47 million. According to Forbes, the loss of the 2007 season cost the Dodgers an estimated $15.2 million and most of the next two seasons as comeback attempts failed to take hold. He was said to have opted for free agency after his contract with the Dodgers was up, but his last listed activity was in 2009 with the Dodgers.
The Bottom Line
Players and owners constantly spar over who should benefit the most from the billions that fans spend to attend sporting events each year. Television rights and merchandise also bring in big money in most sports leagues. Injuries and other events that cause a star player to go down can prove costly to both parties. Football contracts are rarely guaranteed, but the other leagues generally honor the time for which lucrative pay contracts are signed.