Although there are plenty of sports fans out there who would argue against the title of this entire article, thinking to themselves, “Really? A pro athlete underpaid?” the truth is that there are more than just a few pro players who aren’t even coming close to what they should be making, outplaying their current contracts.
Taking a look at the four major sports, I’ve compared some of the top talent’s salaries to those who have similar stats—or at least similar recognition—yet continue to get paid millions of dollars less for a bevy of reasons, while their peers bring home even bigger millions every single year.
Although, I’m sure you won’t show any sympathy for any of these guys since they’re still getting paid a good chunk of change to play a sport, these are are 10 athletes who could—and probably should—be making much more per season.
And although it’s bound to happen for more than a few, since some of these players are still stuck on rookie contracts that have limited them, knowing that they have to risk both injury and money to prove themselves probably isn’t something that they’re too happy about.
10. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers – 2013/2014 Salary: $3.20 Million
After seeing Damian Lillard this season, there’s no way that I’m the only basketball fan who thinks that this guy is one of the top young stars in the NBA. Making an All-Star game this year and participating in every single event a guy could during the weekend’s festivities, Lillard is both a spark plug and a cold-blooded shooter when his team needs a big bucket. Sure, he makes $3.20 million this year, but that will change once his rookie contract runs out, because he’s worth way more than that.
9. Reilly Smith, Boston Bruins – 2013/2014 Salary: $900,000
Now don’t misunderstand me putting Reilly Smith on this list to suggest that the third-year player is deserving of a multi-year deal that’s equal to some of the top NHL stars in the league. I simply added him here because, should he keep up his current pace, he’ll be a guy who could demand some serious coin. After struggling for his first two seasons with the Dallas Stars, Reilly was shipped to Boston as a “throw-in” this past offseason—and it’s worked out beautifully for both the B’s and himself. Making just under $1 million this season, Reilly has the potential, and support of a solid franchise, to make even more in the next few years.
8. Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens – 2014 Salary: $837,168
When putting this list together, one of the guys who I really didn’t assume was still getting paid this low was Baltimore Ravens wideout Torrey Smith. That’s because he has emerged as one of the most-dangerous players in the AFC at wide receiver, proving to be both a deep threat and possession guy. On top of that, he’s more valuable to his team now as the Ravens seem to lack any playmakers for their quarterback Joe Flacco, so I’d think Smith will get locked-up to a mega-deal here soon.
7. Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets – 2013/2014 Salary: $1.367 Million
Is Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried a star in the making? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean he’s worth just $1.44 million—which, of course, is only restricted because he’s still playing on his rookie deal. Still, the “Manimal” is one of the rare guys who plays hard every single night, diving for loose balls and doing the dirty work and small things down low for tough points and rebounds. While there are some rumors surrounding him potentially being traded, wherever he is playing, that team would be wise to lock him up to a deal where he’s rewarded financially.
6. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins – 2014 Salary: $570,000
Although every college football player dreams of one day making it to the NFL, in Alfred Morris‘ case, it unfortunately didn’t happen for him until being selected in the sixth round of the 2012 Draft. That doesn’t mean he has performed like a guy taken with the 173rd overall pick, as the Redskins rusher has totaled 2,888 yards and 20 total TDs in his two seasons thus far. While Washington seemed a bit dysfunctional last season with all of the Robert Griffin III drama, the one thing that was consistent was Morris—which is why Washington would be wise to give him more than just $570,000 per season in the near future.
5. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys – 2014 Salary: $1.78 Million
Dez Bryant‘s addition on this list shouldn’t come as a surprise to many, because as of right now, he’s one of the top receivers in the entire league—yet still gets paid like a rookie. While Bryant will certainly increase his annual pay from $1.78 million to something with an insane signing bonus once Dallas does decide to extend him—which, is certainly a risk, given his past—as it stands how, the one-time Pro Bowler will have to prove himself for at least one more season before getting shown the money.
4. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons – 2013/2014 Salary: 2.46 Million
While the reigning NBA Futures Game MVP might be making more than nearly everyone on this list, that doesn’t mean that Andre Drummond isn’t underpaid in comparison to his production. As the top young center in the league, Drummond may still be on his rookie contract—explaining his low salary—but once he asks for or is in need of a new deal, you better believe he’ll be getting big-time cash. The guy averages a double-double each night, and is a top-15 PER guy—which executives really love to talk about.
3. Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks – 2014 Salary: $1.389 Million
When observing his performances since coming into the league three seasons ago, the self-proclaimed “best cornerback in the NFL,” doesn’t really have too many doubters. All Richard Sherman has done in his brief career—besides run his mouth—is win, by taking on the opposing team’s top wideout and shutting him down. Add in the 20 INTs that Sherman has recorded—tops in the league over that span—and it’s easy to see why the former Stanford product is hugely underpaid at $1.38 million.
2. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks – 2014 Salary: $662,434
How good has Russell Wilson been in the two seasons since joining the Seattle Seahawks? Try a regular season record of 15-1 at home, including a playoff record of 4-1 overall. Oh yeah, and there’s that whole Super Bowl title to his name now after leading the Seahawks to a win earlier this month. Russ will undoubtedly become a $100 million guy once the team begins to renegotiate with him, but, as of right now, he’s an absolute bargain at just over $600,000 next season.
1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – 2014 Salary: $500,000
Although he and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are at least talking about working on a new contract, as of right now, Mike Trout is the most-underpaid player in all of sports. In his two full seasons in the outfield for the Angels, all Trout has done is average 30 home runs, 95 RBI and batted .314. It’s these stats that have helped him gain back-to-back runner-up finishes in the A.L. MVP voting, along with the Rookie of the Year Award in 2012. With all that he does, Mike Trout making just $500,000 this upcoming season is a straight-up steal.