In an earlier article by ESPN’s Jamison Hensley and BTSC’s Neal Coolong, it was pointed out that the Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be the first player to earn at least 70 million dollars in a 100 million dollar contract. So far in NFL history, there have been 16 100 million dollar contracts, with current Eagles’ quarterback Michael Vick receiving two of them. Given the craziness involved in NFL contracts and salary caps, it is even more amazing that Roethlisberger has seen the back end of the 100 million dollar contract, which he signed in March 2008. Here are even more reasons why Roethlisberger’s contract numbers are amazing:
-NFL contracts are not guaranteed. If Roethlisberger played poorly and/or missed more games due to injury, most of the fanbase would be calling for his release. Management would likely have to acquiesce and make Roethlisberger a cap casualty.
-NFL contracts are flexible. Just this offseason, Roethlisberger agreed to a restructuring of his current deal to give the Steelers more room in an already tight salary cap. Most of his salary for the 2013 season has been given to Roethlisberger as a bonus, thus lowering his cap number by a large margin. However, Roethlisberger is still set to make the number he and his agents agreed to in 2008.
-When Roethlisberger got his 100 million dollar deal, it was only the seventh such deal in the NFL. Here are the 100 million dollar contracts and the results of the players who signed them:
1. Brett Favre, Packers 2001 (10 years/100 million dollars/expired after 2010 season) Favre was traded in 2008 to the Jets, played one season in New York and then "retired", and then came back to the Vikings in 2009-2010. Favre retired for good in 2011.
2. Drew Bledsoe, Patriots 2001 (10 years/103 million dollars/expired after 2010 season) After the emergence of younger (and cheaper) Tom Brady, Bledsoe was traded to the Bills in 2002. Bledsoe also played for the Cowboys before being benched in favor of Tony Romo. Bledsoe retired in 2006, not even coming close to meeting the terms of the 100 million dollar contract.
3. Donovan McNabb, Eagles 2002 (12 years/115 million dollars/expired after 2013 season) McNabb was traded to the Redskins in 2010, "retired" as a Viking in 2011, and was out of football completely in 2012, working for the NFL Network.
4. Daunte Culpepper, Vikings 2003 (10 years/102 million dollars/expired after 2012 season) After a horrific knee injury in 2005, Culpepper was traded to the Dolphins in 2006, and was out of football by 2009, not coming close to meeting the length of his 100 million dollar contract.
5. Michael Vick, Falcons 2005 (10 years/130 million dollars/expired after 2014 season) Vick was suspended prior to the 2007 season for dogfighting and other federal charges, served two years in federal prison, was back in football by 2009 with the Eagles (and got another 100 million dollar contract). The Falcons took Vick to court to recoup some of the signing bonus.
6. Carson Palmer, Bengals 2006 (10 years/122.5 million dollars/expired after 2015 season) Palmer signed this contract as an extension of the rookie contract. However, Palmer threatened retirement in 2011 and was traded to the Raiders in 2011. Palmer was traded to the Cardinals in 2013 and has a new (and much cheaper) contract with Arizona.
7. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers 2008 (8 years/102 million dollars/expires after 2015 season). Roethlisberger has three seasons remaining on this contract.
8. Albert Haynesworth, Redskins 2009 (7 years/100 million dollars/expired after ]-->2015 season) Haynesworth, te first non-quarterback and first defensive player to sign a 100 million dollar contract, serves today as a cautionary tale for every NFL front office. After his tumultuous time in Washington, Haynesworth traded to the Patriots after two seasons, and was out of football after 2011 season. Haynesworth did not come close to meeting the length of his contract.
10. Michael Vick, Eagles 2011 (6 years/100 million dollars/expired after 2016 season). Vick currently is an answer to a trivia question (the only player to sign two 100 million dollar contracts in NFL history) but his second 100 million dollar deal was also voided well before its expiration, although not for off-field issues. Vick is currently with the Eagles on a one year deal for the upcoming season.
11. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals 2011 (8 years/128.5 million dollars/expires after 2018 season) Fitzgerald has six more seasons remaining on this deal.
15. Tony Romo, Cowboys (starts in 2014/6 years/108 million dollars/expires after 2019 season) Romo signed this contract as a part of an extension to his previous contract.
16. Aaron Rodgers, Packers (starts in 2015/5 years/110 million dollars/expires after 2019 season) Rodgers signed this contract as a part of an extension to his previous contract.
So there you have it. Six of the 16 were traded and four of the 16 were out of the NFL well before the length of the contract could be met. Unlike in Major League Baseball where 44 100 million dollar contracts were signed (two by Alex Rodriguez and two by Albert Pujols), the 100 million dollar contracts are more seldom in the NFL. The MLB 100 million dollar contracts also have something the NFL 100 million dollar contracts do not: they have players who actually saw the entire length of the contract with the teams that signed them: Derek Jeter with the Yankees, Jason Giambi with the Yankees, Todd Helton with the Rockies, and Albert Pujols with the Cardinals. For me, this makes what Roethlisberger has done thus far even more amazing given the unstable nature of the NFL and the salary cap.
What are the chances that anyone else on this list will reach the milestone Roethlisberger has? Eli Manning will likely match it as well given the length left on his deal. It is way too early to tell on Flacco, Romo, and Rodgers. Chances are they won’t meet the length of the contracts and they will be signed to new deals in the future. Yes, barring extremely poor play or other unfortunate circumstances, Roethlisberger will likely signed an extension after the 2013 season, greatly reducing his cap number for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. However, meeting 70 million dollars in a 100 million dollar contract is nothing to sneeze at, especially in today's NFL.