In 2002, Ryan Clark was signed by the NFL New York Giants as an undrafted free agent after playing for the Louisiana State University (LSU) Tigers for four years. He was signed to a two-year contract worth $525,000.
His rookie signing bonuses then amounted to $1,000 but was left with less than $700 after taxes. “I was [an] undrafted free agent. They gave me $1,000. I remember after the draft, only the Saints and the Giants even offered me an undrafted rookie contract. By the time I got off the phone with my agent, the Saints had pulled it.
“I remember man after taxes, it was like $683 or something… and I just remember this is when Steve Maddens was hot. That was the only thing I bought,” Clark shared on the “Funky Friday Clips with Cam Newton” podcast.
However, Clark’s time with the New York Giants was cut short following his release from the team. He got signed by the Washington Redskins for one year and played for two seasons. But in mid-March, they decided to cut ties with him on the last year of his contract.
The team subsequently reduced his salary to keep him but knowing his worth, Clark decided to leave because he felt he was better than so many players who received a higher salary. His next move was with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
According to him, joining the Pittsburgh Steelers was the easiest decision for him since that was the only option on the table. The deal was a four-year contract worth $7 million and a signing bonus of nearly $1.7 million, according to ESPN.
His contract with the Steelers was his biggest since he started playing football. It was also the first time he had seen his value reflected in his salary.
“My signing bonus was $1.7 [million] and that was my going into my fifth year…I cried all the way to the airport,” he expressed in the interview. “For me, after not being drafted, after being cut by the Giants, Washington giving Adam Archuleta — who I knew I was better than — the highest paid contract, telling me they had come back on vet minimum, it was the first time in the league I felt wanted.
“I wasn’t even crying about the money. I was just happy. I was like, ‘Finally, somebody is saying you’re at least worth this.’”
He played with the Steelers for eight seasons, returned to the Washington Redskins for one season before retiring in 2015 with the Steelers. His career statistics include 643 tackles and 16 interceptions, according to CBS Sports.