The Chicago Bears looked like they found a star receiver in the dynamic Johnny Knox.
Here’s how Knox was able to still earn a significant payday after he retired through an injury settlement.
Johnny Knox played three seasons for the Chicago Bears
A standout receiver at Abilene Christian, an FCS program in Texas, Johnny Knox entered the NFL as a fifth-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 2009.
Knox immediately made an impact, recording a 68-yard catch-and-run in a Week 1 loss to the Green Bay Packers. He scored receiving touchdowns in his first two games and added a 102-yard kickoff return for a score.
Knox ended his rookie year with 45 catches, 527 yards, and five touchdowns. He earned a spot in the Pro Bowl not for his receiving numbers, but because he averaged 29 yards per return.
Knox improved his numbers in 2010, catching 51 passes for 960 yards and five touchdowns. Knox’s 18.8 yards per reception tied for fifth in the NFL among qualified players.
Knox also caught six passes for 104 yards in two playoff games that year. He had another impressive season in 2011 when he caught 37 balls for 727 yards — a staggering 19.6 YPC — and two touchdowns through 14 games.
Knox suffered a career-ending injury in 2011
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By December 2011, Johnny Knox had established himself as a dangerous receiver. He likely wasn’t going to be a true No. 1 who could catch 80 balls a year, but Knox used his speed and skills to his advantage.
Then, everything changed. Knox collided with Seahawks defender Anthony Hargrove during a Week 15 and left the game with a spinal injury.
Knox had immediate surgery to stabilize an injured vertebra. Although he tried making a comeback in 2012, his career was over.
Knox officially retired in 2013, a few months after he turned 26. Knox had the rest of his career ahead of him if not for the injury.
Johnny Knox’s injury settlement was worth nearly his average salary
Given that Johnny Knox made less than $2 million in the NFL, he understandably wanted an injury settlement to help him financially.
Knox received that settlement in 2014. According to Forbes, Knox received $400,000, which at the time was the largest settlement a Bears player received.
Here’s where things get interesting from a financial aspect. Knox’s average NFL salary, according to Spotrac, was a little under $500,000. Specifically, Knox’s average salary was $488,500.
Knox’s settlement was nearly as much as he made per year. Had Knox stayed healthy, he likely could have cashed in, either with the Bears or another team.
Still, all parties have to ask, “What could have been?” Knox, at least, has shown no ill will toward the Bears and has worked with them on videos and through social outreach.