The ink is barely dry on Steve Smith's four-year, $37.75 million deal with the Carolina Panthers. The three-year extension he signed last month includes $16.8 million guaranteed, with a $10 million signing bonus, but Smith doesn't plan to flaunt it.
The accomplished veteran receiver has seen too many of his NFL peers stumble into financial fiascos that often stretch the imagination. Millionaires going broke. Hard for many of us to comprehend, but Smith isn't surprised by any of it.
"Mismanagement of money doesn't change because you have a lot of money. There are a lot of guys out there that make a lot of money and that make a little money and still live paycheck-to-paycheck," Smith told WFNZ-AM in Charlotte on Wednesday, via ProFootballTalk.com. "You know, ignorance of how the financial game works or managing money doesn't exclude you because you have a lot of it. It just enables you to make bigger and dumber mistakes because you have a lot of money."
In some situations, the problem is a lack of a strong support system around young athletes. With that first contract, family and friends -- and a legion of more tenuous associates -- often emerge from the woodwork, asking for support and favors. Smith talked openly about younger athletes trusting the wrong people. Players themselves are given spending power, sometimes for the first time in life. Heady territory, littered with warning signs.
"I'll tell you why so many athletes are broke: 17 weeks out of the year you get paid, and the rest, you have to manage," Smith said, adding that when players stumble into money troubles, some crumble: "People get dangerous, get desperate, and that's how you get these guys that do drug runs and start driving down highways with kilos of marijuana just so they can get that fast cash."