5 Most Hair-Raising Sports Contracts
Although many professional athletes toil in relative obscurity, there is a well-publicized minority that makes a killing. These players' hair-raising salaries are shocking in their size alone, but some athletes' compensation is even more disturbing because they fail to live up to the pay they command. Read on for a list of the top multimillion-dollar contracts that have haunted the players who scored them.
#5 Gilbert Arenas - 6 Years, $111 Million
Arenas is definately the wild-card on our list. It's hard not to like Gilbert Arenas. The self-proclaimed "Agent Zero" has proved time and time again that we should never discount his talents and his drive. After bursting onto the scene in the 2004-2005 season, Arenas proceeded to wow fans and opponents alike with his clutch play and unorthodox behavior, making him one of the most popular players in the league.
However, after only playing a total of 19 regular season and playoff games in the past two seasons due to a knee injury, Arenas needs to have a huge comeback season in order to justify the six-year, $111 million contract he received from the Wizards in the summer of 2008.
#4 Barry Zito - 7 Years, $126 Million
Zito has probably had the most disappointing drop-off of anyone on our list. The quirky lefty was one of the best pitchers in baseball during his tenure with the Oakland A's, where he was selected to the American League All-Star team on three occasions and took home the 2002 Cy Young Award. Following the 2006 season, in which he went 16-10 with a 3.83 ERA, the Giants signed Zito to a seven-year, $126 million contract, making him the highest paid pitcher in Major League history at the time.
Since signing the deal, Zito has gone 31-43, never posting an ERA under 4.00. Zito has also lost between three and five miles per hour on his fastball, allowing hitters to sit on his once-unhittable curve ball. The Giants have experimented with pitching Zito out of the bullpen, looking for any signs that the once dominant lefty can recapture his form. So far, the results have been mixed.
#3 Zach Randolph - 6 Years, $84 Million
Is it possible to be one of the biggest surprises and busts of the same draft? It looks like Zach Randolph may have done it. After being drafted 19th overall in the 2001 draft, Randolph became one of the best young low-post threats in the league, prompting the Blazers to sign him to a six-year, $84 million extension. Since the signing, Randolph has been traded three times, most recently this past summer by the Clippers to the Memphis Grizzlies. Randolph easily has the worst contract in the league, yet general managers like Mike Dunleavy and Chris Wallace continue to pay this guy more than $16 million a year to poison their teams.
But it's definitely not his numbers that make his contract one of the worst in all professional sports (averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds in three of the past four seasons), it's the fact that Randolph is a ticking time bomb, and has shown little interest in getting into shape. Why would the Grizzlies bring him into a locker room full of young, impressionable players? With two years and $33 million left, expect to see Randolph's contract back in the top three next season.
#2 Vernon Wells - 7 Years, $126 Million
Here's another albatross of a contract from the '06 MLB off-season. Recently fired Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi signed Wells to a back-loaded seven-year, $126 million deal on the heels of a decent season in which Wells hit .303 with 32 home runs and 106 RBI. Wells was overpaid the moment the deal was signed, but the Jays had hoped the Gold Glove center-fielder would continue to progress into one of the premier five-tool players in the game.
Wells has done just the opposite. With three consecutive sub-par seasons in which he has struggled with various injuries and inconsistency, Wells' poor performance ultimately cost Ricciardi his job (along with a laundry list of over-payments and questionable signings).
With four years remaining on the deal, Wells' contract is virtually untradeable, so the Jays are stuck with an underachieving, overpaid center fielder to build their team around. It may be a while yet before fans in the Great White North get to see some October baseball.
#1 JaMarcus Russell - 6 Years, $68 Million
JaMarcus Russell gets the No.1 slot on this list for a reason; in fact, his contract is so bad it deserves its own list. Six-years, $68 million, with $32 million guaranteed. Is there anyone on the planet who could justify this contract (besides Russell himself)? Following the Raiders' 38-0 blowout loss to the Jets, Russell told the San Francisco Chronicle, "I don't think it's me personally". While football is most definitely a team game, you need only look at the numbers to see that yes, it actually is Russell: a 2-5 record this year, with a completion percentage of 46.3, two touchdowns, eight interceptions and a QB rating of 47.2. Those are brutal numbers for any quarterback.
Russell's poor play and perceived lack of interest have many comparing him to another first-round super-bust: Ryan Leaf. The Raiders may be stuck with Russell as their starter for a while, as team owner Al Davis may force the coaching staff's hand at playing Russell to justify his contract, which was signed following his holdout prior to the 2007 season. While a lot of the other contracts on this list have sent chills up fans' spines, Russell's ongoing deal is the thing of nightmares.