10 Egregiously Bad Sports Contracts


Ricky Williams

Coming out of college, Ricky Williams was nothing short of a football god. During his four years at the University of Texas, the dreadlocked running back broke the all-time NCAA Division I rushing record (held by Tony Dorsett for 22 years), the all-time Division I rushing touchdown record -- and capped it off with the 1998 Heisman Trophy.

In 1997, legendary NFL coach Mike Ditka came out of retirement to revive the beleaguered New Orleans Saints. Despite the Saints' desperate need of a quality quarterback, Ditka decided to bet everything on Williams, trading all of their 1999 draft selections (plus first- and third-round choices in 2000) to the Washington Redskins in return for the chance to snap up the unproven college star [source: Baker].

In a strange move that would serve as an omen for the weirdness to come, Williams chose an inexperienced agent from rapper Master P's fledgling agency No Limit Sports. As a result, Williams' contract with the Saints was a mess. On the surface, it was a seven-year, $68 million deal. But thanks to a convoluted incentives structure, Ditka's next superstar only received the league minimum for his first two years and $5 million of his $8.84 million signing bonus was deferred [source: Baker].

The suffering Saints didn't get a whole lot out of the deal, either. Williams hurt his ankle in the first season, only scoring two rushing touchdowns. Things picked up in the next season, but by then his odd behavior -- conducting post-game interviews with his helmet on, rumors of heavy marijuana use, a teammate-bashing article in "ESPN: The Magazine" -- sealed his fate. After three unproductive seasons, Williams was traded to the Miami Dolphins, and Ditka -- who had once posed with Williams for a magazine cover as bride and groom (Ricky was the bride) -- retired for good [source: ESPN].