When Ricky Williams was drafted fifth overall by the New Orleans Saints in the 1999 NFL Draft, he was in line for a serious payday. But Williams didn't want to settle for a standard contract. Instead, he opted for a seven-year deal that could be worth between $11.1 million and $68.4 million, depending on how well he performed. The contract, which was negotiated by Master P's No Limit Sports, was highly controversial at the time.
Although the ceiling was very high—if Williams had maxed out all the performance bonuses, he would've been the richest rookie in league history—the floor was very low, since missing all incentives would result in a league minimum salary. One highlight: Williams would add $3 million to his annual salary if he broke Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards.
Williams also had an escalator clause in relation to Terrell Davis's contract with the Denver Broncos. At the time, Davis was one of the best backs in the league. Over his first four NFL seasons, he rushed for 6,413 yards, averaged 4.8 yards per carry, scored 61 touchdowns and totaled 7,594 yards from scrimmage. If Williams could hit three of those four marks during his first four seasons, his contract would automatically duplicate that of Davis.
If Ricky had hit those marks and jacked up his income, he would be regarded as a genius. Since he fell short, he is widely believed to have signed one of the worst contracts in sports history.