In 2006, Notre Dame pitcher and wide receiver Jeff Samardzija chose to play professional baseball over a career in the NFL, a move many recommend because of the longer careers and bigger guaranteed contracts. But after eight years, Samardzija is just starting to come out ahead financially and he will soon hit the jackpot.
After being drafted in 2006, the Chicago Cubs gave Samardzija a $7.25 million signing bonus that was contingent on him committing to baseball within five years. When Samardzija did commit to baseball after his final season of football at Notre Dame, the Cubs gave their young pitcher a new $10 million contract even though he was yet to appear in the majors.
Samardzija won't be a free agent until after the 2015 season, and yet he has already earned $32.2 million in his career as a baseball player, including a $5.3 million salary this season.
Projected to be drafted in the middle of the 2007 NFL Draft's first round, here is how Samardzija's career earnings compare to the three wide receivers who were drafted in the middle of the first round that year. Dwayne Bowe is the only player who has been named to a Pro Bowl.
Samardzija is clearly behind Bowe and if he had been a pro bowler, he probably would have earned more money in his career by this point if he had chosen football. But that will change soon.
Bowe can still earn another $31.0 million on his current contract over the 2015-17 seasons. Those seasons are not guaranteed.
Meanwhile, Samardzija will likely earn close to $10 million next season through arbitration. He also recently turned down a 5-year, $85 million extension with the Cubs before the team traded him to the Oakland A's. He will likely make much more than that if he hits the free agent market next winter.
At that point, the career earnings of the football players will pale in comparison.
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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