The Most Disastrous Rookie Contracts in NFL History

Bryn SwartzSenior Writer IIISeptember 8, 2011

The Most Disastrous Rookie Contracts in NFL History

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    Having a high draft pick is one of the most exciting things for an NFL team because it means that the new player selected can become the face of the franchise. Examples include Peyton Manning, who was selected first overall by the Indianapolis Colts in 1998, or Jake Long, who was selected first overall by the Miami Dolphins in 2008.

    But sometimes a team gambles...and loses.

    The following eight slides highlight the worst rookie contracts in NFL history, in no particular order. Quite frankly, these players are total busts.

JaMarcus Russell, QB, Oakland Raiders

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    The first overall selection in the 2007 NFL draft, quarterback JaMarcus Russell signed a $61 million contract with the Oakland Raiders, including $32 million guaranteed. 

    He lasted just three dismal seasons in the NFL, throwing for 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions, before he was mercifully released by the team after the 2009 season. He won just seven of 29 starts and has been out of the league for over a year.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Oakland Raiders

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    Everybody knows that the only reason why the Oakland Raiders selected wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey with the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft is because of his blazing speed.

    They signed him to a five-year, $38.25 million contract, including a ridiculous $23.5 million guaranteed.

    So far, Heyward-Bey has not lived up to expectations at all. He's recorded 35 receptions and exactly two touchdowns in his professional career.

Vernon Gholston, DE, New York Jets

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    The sixth overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft by the New York Jets, defensive end Vernon Gholston signed a five-year contract worth $32 million. If Gholston reached all of his performance clauses, the deal would have maxed out at $50 million. His contract included $21 million in guaranteed money.

    In three seasons with the Jets, Gholston collected exactly 16 tackles. He failed to record a sack. And he was cut following the 2010 season.

    He was signed to a contract by the Bears in July of 2011, but he was waived a month later.

Reggie Bush, RB, New Orleans Saints

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    One of the greatest college running backs in history, Reggie Bush was drafted by the New Orleans Saints with the second overall pick in the 2006 draft.

    Bush signed a six-year deal worth $62 million, with over $26.5 million guaranteed. 

    He played five seasons with the Saints, and although he proved his value as a receiving threat out of the backfield, as well as a returner, he never succeeded as a running back, and that's why he was drafted. He was supposed to be one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. Instead, he struggled to get onto the field.

    He is looking to revive his career with the Miami Dolphins right now.

Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans

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    Following Vince Young's second-place finish in the 2006 Heisman Trophy voting, the Tennessee Titans drafted him third overall and signed him to a five-year deal worth $58 million, including more than $25 million guaranteed.

    Although Young made two Pro Bowl selections and earned Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, he never developed into a top-10 quarterback in the league. Let's face it—he wouldn't be a two-time Pro Bowler if he wasn't so popular.

    He lost his starting job a couple of times, had some off-the-field problems, was released by the team and is looking to revive his career in Philadelphia as the backup to Michael Vick.

Matt Leinart, QB, Arizona Cardinals

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    A Heisman Trophy winner in college, Matt Leinart slipped down to the 10th overall selection in the 2006 draft.

    He was picked by the Cardinals, who signed him to a six-year, $50.8 million deal, including $14 million guaranteed.

    In four seasons with Arizona, Leinart threw 14 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. He has spent the past two seasons on the Houston Texans but has not thrown a pass since the 2009 season.

    Money well spent, Cardinals.

Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers

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    The top selection in the 2005 NFL draft, 49ers quarterback Alex Smith signed a six-year, $49.5 million deal, including $24 million in guaranteed money.

    In six seasons, he's thrown 51 touchdowns and 53 interceptions, and he's posted a passer rating below the league average every season. He's won 19 of his 50 starts and has never had a winning record.

Ryan Leaf, QB, San Diego Chargers

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    The second overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft, Ryan Leaf was signed to a four-year, $31.25 million contract, including an $11.25 million signing bonus, the largest ever given to an NFL rookie at the time.

    The day he was drafted, he stated that he was looking forward to a 15-year NFL career, a couple of trips to the Super Bowl and a parade through downtown San Diego.

    Nope. Instead, he played four seasons, threw 14 touchdowns against 36 interceptions, posted a passer rating of 50.0 and established himself as the largest draft bust in the history of the National Football League.