Money. Ultimately, it all comes down to money. Sports teams are notorious for offering as much as they can to anyone they think will deliver what they need. They have no scruples when it comes to whipping out the checkbook, and players have picked up the habit of holding-out for the best deal. Team loyalty often takes a back seat to contract numbers. For the most part, fans will follow their favourite players wherever they may end up, although the thought of them going to a rival team can be enough to send shivers of unadulterated hate through their veins.
With salary caps in all major sports, teams must juggle their books, taking a gamble on who they wish to reward and who they hope can’t find a better deal elsewhere. With such a competitive environment, big deals with large amounts of money cross tables at the end of each season. Players that have proven themselves will almost always get the money, be it from the team they performed well in or another that wishes to use them to achieve the same success.
The salary that is offered to a player is dependent on several factors, but the bottom line is simple; teams will make room in their budget if they truly value their talent. Play hard, exceed expectations and you will recieve the compensation you deserve. The following list comprises 10 players who chose to leave their winning teams in search of a bigger payday.
10 Wes Welker: $12 Million Contract - Denver Broncos
In the 2012 season, Wes Welker was playing for the New England Patriots, and he was not only a fan favourite, but a favourite receiver of future hall-of-fame quarterback, Tom Brady. He currently holds the Patriots franchise record for most receptions and he set the NFL record for the most games with 10 or more receptions. Welker also took the record for the most games with 10 or more catches for over 100 yards. These outstanding numbers weren't enough for the Patriots, who bade him good luck when they refused to meet his salary demand. The Denver Broncos were more than happy to help him out, offering Welker a $12 million, two-year contract.
9 Mario Williams: $16 Million Contract - Buffalo Bills
Free agency was good to Mario Williams. The defensive end made a slight detour in 2012, visiting the Buffalo Bills for a little chit chat about his future career. The Bills, unlike the Houston Texans (his team at that moment) valued him a whole lot. Enough for them to offer him a $16 million, six-year contract. It took Williams as long as uncapping the pen to sign on with the Bills and promptly forget about his former team.
8 Elvis Dumervil: $35 Million Contract - Baltimore Ravens
Not all players leave for more money. Yet, sometimes it just happens to fall that way. Elvis Dumervil was ready to restructure his contract with the Denver Broncos in March of 2013, reducing his salary in order to stay with his team. By some misfortune, the papers were faxed 6 minutes too late, Denver didn't resign him and he moved on the Baltimore Ravens for a five-year deal worth $35 Million.
7 Paul Kruger: $41 Million Contract - Cleveland Browns
Outside linebacker Paul Kruger was an important part of the Baltimore Ravens defense in 2012. Yet, all his moves on the field - the sacks, forced fumbles, and fumble recoveries - didn't cement his future with the Ravens. In 2013 he became a free agent, and the Cleveland Browns quickly made nice with him. Kruger left the Ravens a happy man, and walked into Cleveland with over 40 million reasons to smile once more.
6 Barry Bonds: $43.75 Million ($70.7 in today’s market) Contract - San Fransisco Giants
In the late 80s, Barry bonds brought the Pittsburg Pirates out of their slump, filling the stands with fans once more. He was an integral part of helping the Pirates reach the NL championship three years in a row, where they subsequently crumbled for various reasons. In 1993, he became a free agent and it was no surprise he jumped ship to the highest bidder. The San Francisco Giants wooed Bonds into their club by offering him a then unheard-of amount of money: $43.75 million for six years of his time.
5 Andy Levitre: $46.8 Million Contract - Tennessee Titans
Andy Levitre was the 51st pick of the NFL draft in 2009. He was also the first guard drafted by anyone that year. The Buffalo Bills picked him, needing him as a left guard in their newly formed defensive scheme. Levitre made such a big impact on his team and the league in general that he made the 2009 NFL All-Rookie team. By 2012, Levitre had enough years under his belt to command a much bigger salary than when he first entered the league. The Bills did not want to spend as much as he deserved, so he moved on to the Tennessee Titans, signing a six-year deal worth $46.8 million.
4 Greg Jennings: $47.5 Million Contract - Minnesota Vikings
Wide receiver Greg Jennings played for the Green Bay Packers from 2006 - 2012. In that time, he went to the NFL All-Rookie team, attended two Pro Bowls and was a Super Bowl and NFC champion. He had three consecutive years with over 1,000 receiving yards and scored 43 touchdowns with the Packers. Yet, the 2012 season was not his best. A groin injury kept him on the sidelines far more than either he or the Packers liked. When he became a free agent and the Minnesota Vikings offered him $47.5 million for five years, he left the frigid tundra of Green Bay in a heartbeat.
3 Mike Wallace: $60 Million Contract - Miami Dolphins
Wide receiver Mike Wallace played for the Pittsburgh Steelers for 4 years. He was named Pittsburgh Rookie of the Year, went to the Pro Bowl, and was part of the AFC Championship Team. Despite all this, when it came down to dollars and cents, the New Orleans native and the Steelers simply couldn't find common ground. Wallace took a vacation to the beautiful beaches of Miami where his fortunes turned for the better. He signed a five-year contract with the Dolphins in the blink of an eye for a cool $60 million.
2 Julius Peppers: $91.5 Million Contract - Chicago Bears
North Carolina didn't think they needed to franchise Julius Peppers in his last season for the team. Never mind that he had finished the 2010 season with 36 tackles, 6 assisted tackles, 10.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 2 interceptions, 1 blocked kick and various other remarkable feats of athleticism. After being invited to his 6th Pro Bowl, he became a free agent, and jumped ship as soon as the Chicago Bears offered him $91.5 million for six years. His hard work and dedication finally paid off.
1 Alex Rodriguez: $275 Million Contract - New York Yankees
Despite this list looking like a who's who of greedy NFLers, a baseballer finds himself occupying the top spot. Drug allegations aside, Alex ‘A-Rod’ Rodriquez is arguably the best player to ever step out into the baseball field. He is a living legend, becoming the youngest player ever to hit both 500 and 600 home runs. The 14-time All-Star has a total of 654 home runs, 322 stolen bases and an amazing 1,969 RBIs in his 19-year career. He also has the distinction of holding the top two largest contracts ever awarded to a player in any sport. In 2001, the Texas Rangers signed the superstar to an unheard of $252 million dollar deal. Because he produced exactly what a winning club needs, the Yankees lured him away from the Rangers in 2004, offering him $275 million.
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