Did you know that the average NFL player will earn roughly $2 million per year? That number is an average, of course, and it severely hides the fact that some players are getting paid eye-popping numbers. For example, right now Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton is earning $20 million per season. With all of this money flying around it should be no problem for these athletes to retire comfortably, right? Well, not so fast. NFL players tend to go broke far quicker than other professional athletes. In fact, listed below are 32 NFL superstars who were absolutely loaded but somehow still managed to lose it all. Keep on reading, #6 is truly a cautionary tale!
32. Thomas Henderson
Henderson was a game changer at the linebacker position when he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1975. As a 1st round pick, Henderson was expected to come in and contribute right away — and he did, landing a Pro Bowl and a Super Bowl Championship in his career. Legal issues put Henderson behind bars and soon his playing money was gone.
31. Johnny Unitas
He was one of the most influential players in NFL history and he ended his career essentially broke. Johnny Unitas, or the ‘Golden Arm’, racked up every kind of award a QB can earn while playing with the Baltimore Colts. Unitas suffered from crippling disability in his post-playing days and he would end up losing much of the money that he had earned.
30. Ryan Leaf
Ryan Leaf is a horror story wrapped in the trappings of a promising NFL career. Leaf played for several professional teams in his career but consistent drug problems sidetracked him. Leaf ended up being sentenced to seven years in prison back in 2012.
29. Ray Rice
At one point in time, Ray Rice was one of the best runningbacks in the league. However, age made Rice start to slow down and then his horrific domestic violence case went public. Rice is now untouchable in the NFL and bleeding money as a result.
28. Mark Ingram Sr.
Does his name sound familiar? Mark Ingram Sr is the father of Saints running back Mark Ingram. Ingram Sr was a Super Bowl winning wide receiver with the New York Giants back at Super Bowl XXV. Ingram ended up in prison for seven years for tax fraud and money laundering, thus losing everything he had worked so hard to earn.
27. Michael Vick
Vick was the most exciting player in the NFL when he was with the Atlanta Falcons. He had earned more than $130 million in his career when he was imprisoned for being a part of a dog fighting ring. Vick had to give up everything when he served his prison sentence, declaring bankruptcy along the way.
26. Dan Marino
Dan Marino rewrote the record books back when he was with the Miami Dolphins. Still, that doesn’t mean Marino knows how to work with money. Marino got caught up investing in the hologram company behind Tupac Shakur’s appearance at Coachella 2012. Marino would lose $14 million on the investment and we’re still no closer to holograms.
25. Terrell Owens
As much a diva as a Hall of Fame wide receiver, Owens always struck a chord on the field. Owens earned over $70 million during his 11-year career but retirement saw things turn sour, quick. Owens fell behind on child support payments and taxes and began to struggle to make payments.
24. Lawrence Taylor
Taylor may be the greatest linebacker to play the game but he was a terrible businessman. Taylor earned upwards of $50 million during his career but he was broke five years after he quit playing football. Taylor would go on to be found guilty of tax evasion, as well.
23. Darren Sharper
Darren Sharper used to be among the Green Bay faithful but now he is almost universally despised. Sharper was a hard hitting safety during his time in the NFL but he was also a rapist and he is now serving time behind bars.
22. Warren Sapp
Goofy, physically intimidating, and always fun to watch — Warren Sapp racked up some serious cash during his Hall of Fame career. Once Sapp walked away from the game he was quick to lose it all, however. Legal issues and terrible spending habits sent Sapp spiraling to bankruptcy.
21. Tiki Barber
Due to seizure issues as a child, the odds of Tiki Barber ever making it to the NFL were slim to none. Still, Barber made his way and became a steady contributor out of the backfield. Unfortunately, Barber ruined his reputation and his bank account when he was fired from NBC due to an affair with an intern that cost him his marriage.
20. JaMarcus Russell
Oakland Raider fans never want to hear this name again. JaMarcus Russell was drafted #1 overall in order to change the state of the Raider franchise. However, drug problems derailed Russell’s career and he was soon on the streets.
19. Mark Brunell
Mark Brunell led the Jacksonville Jaguars to their first AFC Championship after being added to the NFL as an expansion team. Brunell was their first signal caller and also their most successful. Brunell had earned $22 million in his career but he filed for Chapter 11 in 2010.
18. Dick Lane
Known as the ‘Night Train’, Dick Lane was a dominant defensive end back in the ’50s. Lane would play for 14 seasons, retiring as a Detroit Lion. Lane made poor real estate investments and also had to deal with a drug problem and soon his career earnings were nothing but memories.
17. Andre Rison
Andre Rison had one great year in the NFL and then the Cleveland Browns offered him $17 million — way too much money. Rison would flop out of the NFL shortly after being awarded the contract and by 2007 he was bankrupt thanks to unpaid child support.
16. Vince Young
Vince Young is another sad story of what could have been. Young was drafted to be a franchise changer in Tennessee but he would bottom out of the NFL, quick. Young wasted through his $26 million in career earnings thanks to a poor financial advisor and his own poor choices. Young was spending nearly $5,000 per week at the Cheesecake Factory as well.
15. Charlie Batch
He may not be a household name but Charlie Batch was a Super Bowl winning QB during his time in the NFL. Batch was drafted in the 2nd round and he would play from 1998 to 2012. In retirement Batch would end up losing almost everything due to bankruptcy. Batch made poor investments and his real estate company, Batch Development Co, was to blame.
14. John Elway
Okay, so Elway isn’t really broke but he has lost more than most players on this list ever made. Elway reportedly lost $22 million in a Ponzi scheme back in 2010. Elway had also been offered up a 10% stake in the Denver Broncos in lieu of deferred salary that the QB had been owed. Elway passed up on the deal and that stake would end up being worth nearly $388 million just a few years later.
13. Luther Elliss
Elliss was a Pro Bowl defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions and Denver Broncos in his career, earning over $12 million through ten years of playing time. However, bad investments and poor decision making cost Elliss everything and he would file for bankruptcy just six years after quitting football.
12. Bernie Kosar
You’re going to quickly find out that playing for the Cleveland Browns might not be such a good thing after all. Bernie Kosar is probably the best QB to lace it up for the Browns, as the team actually won games while he was around. Kosar earned nearly $19 million during his career but he filed for bankruptcy when his savings got down to $44 dollars.
11. Aaron Hernandez
Aaron Hernandez was imprisoned for multiple murders in a case that shocked the nation. During his playing days he was one of the best tight ends in all of football and a favorite target of QB Tom Brady. Hernandez had signed a $40 million extension when he was arrested, thus voiding the contract.
10. Muhsin Muhammad
Muhsin ‘Moose’ Muhammad was one of the best wideouts to ever play for the Chicago Bears and as a result, he landed some hefty contracts, earning $20 million in his career. Muhammad would end up making poor business investments that would eventually bankrupt him, including starting his own music company – Baylo Entertainment.
9. Dermontti Dawson
Dawson is an NFL Hall of Famer for his work on the offensive line. Despite his amazing plays and multiple huge contracts, Dawson would end up bankrupt in 2010 after numerous reckless decisions with his finances. Dawson racked up $69 million in debt by the time of his bankruptcy proceedings.
8. O.J. Simpson
What’s there to be said about O.J. Simpson? He was a historically great running back before his career, and life, took a tragic and disgusting turn. Simpson of course was brought to trial for murdering his ex-wife but he was ultimately found innocent. Then, in 2007, Simpson was arrested and imprisoned for kidnapping and robbery.
7. Chris McAlister
Chris McAlister racked up 3x Pro Bowl awards as well as a Super Bowl Championship with the Baltimore Ravens during his 11-year career. However, all of those great years of service went down the drain despite earning over $45 million. McAlister made poor business decisions and ended up beholden to child support payments.
6. Deuce McAllister
Deuce was a running back for the Saints from 2001 to 2008 where he earned a heaping total of $23 million. McAllister invested in some car dealerships after his playing days and ended up $75 million dollars in the hole to Whitney National Bank.
5. Archie Griffin
Griffin came out of the college football world as one of the biggest stars ever, however, he didn’t light it up in the NFL. Griffin turned into a career back up over seven years of football. Still, Griffin tried to invest the money he earned into a shoe business but it ended up going belly up. Griffin lost everything and ended up bankrupt in 1982.
4. Travis Henry
At one point in time Travis Henry looked like a world beater for the Buffalo Bills. However, Henry couldn’t control his love life and he ended up father to 11 children with ten women. Though he made over $20 million in his career, most of his money is going to child support.
3. Sam Hurd
Sam Hurd had made it to the NFL despite being undrafted as a rookie. Hurd played for five years but his career would quickly be forgotten after he was arrested while trying to set up an illegal drug ring in Chicago. Hurd is broke and in prison for the next decade.
2. Raghib Ismail
Nicknamed the ‘Rocket’, Ismail was a talented wideout who played for both the CFL and the NFL. Ismail earned upwards of $20 million in his career but he wasted it away on poor investments rather than poor spending habits.
1. Phillip Buchanon
While Buchanon was never a huge star in the NFL he did manage to rack up nine seasons in the league. Buchanon earned over $20 million during his career but he didn’t get to keep much of it. Buchanon was exploited by friends and family and he watched as his bank account steadily dwindled.