10 Biggest NFL Rookie Contracts in History

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When the National Football League Players Association and owners agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement in 2011, things around the league changed. While the game remained the same, there were many financial differences — mainly how the profits from advertisements, etc., were going to be allocated. But one other financial change occurred: the rookie wage scale.

Before the CBA took place in 2011, rookie wages were somewhat ridiculous. Twenty-one- and 22-year-old players were getting record-setting contracts — contracts that not even some of the best veterans in the league were getting. Owners didn’t like this, but they were forced to pay because their prized, youthful players would just hold out until they did. Consider this: The Saint Louis Rams drafted quarterback Sam Bradford in 2010 and he signed a six-year, $76 million contract. Since then, he has accomplished very little. In 2012, the Indianapolis Colts drafted Andrew Luck with the first overall pick. Luck signed a four-year, $22.5 million contract. That’s a difference of a little more than $7 million per year.

In order to make rookie wages a little more reasonable, owners and the players association created a rookie wage limit. In other words, each team gets a certain amount of money they can spend on signing their rookies and undrafted free agents. No more, no less. A lot of the time, this has resulted in young players getting the league minimum (just look at third-round pick Russell Wilson’s initial four-year, $2.99 million contract). While this 2014 batch of rookies will assuredly not come remotely close to some of the pre-2011 rookie contracts, here are the 10 biggest rookie contracts (in total, not annually).

10. Aaron Curry, Seattle Seahawks: $60 million

Curry, a linebacker out of Wake Forest, signed this six-year deal in 2009. Despite the impressively large contract, he never really panned out (one of many instances likely leading to the league’s new rookie wage scale). He retired from the NFL in 2012 — he didn’t even last the entire six years on his initial contract — having recorded 163 tackles and just 5.5 sacks. As a whole, Curry was a complete bust.

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