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Ben Roethlisberger contract milestone shows the absurdity of NFL contracts

Frank Schwab
Shutdown Corner

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(USA Today Sports Images)

NFL contracts are, for the most part, fiction.

A great stat over at ESPN.com shows the absurdity of the deals we hear about, and one of the plights of NFL players. The ESPN.com post said there have been 16 contracts worth at least $100 million in NFL history, and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be the first one to get even $70 million of one. Donovan McNabb got $69 million of his $100 million deal, and that stood as the record. Eight of those 16 contracts have been completed already, ESPN said, and only McNabb and Brett Favre received 50 percent of their deals.

And people complain when NFL players hold out for more guaranteed money?

It's fairly inconceivable that most of the contracts in Major League Baseball and the NBA are fully guaranteed while very few in the NFL are, for two simple reasons: The NFL is by far the most popular sport in his country, and the NFL is by far the most dangerous sport. The chances of a MLB player suffering through concussion symptoms the rest of his life are fairly slim, but when a baseball player signs a contract he can be fairly certain he's going to get every penny, even if the team has buyer's remorse. Imagine that. (Not to mention the money given to MLB and NBA players – $147 million for Zack Greinke and his poor 4.30 ERA, a $118 million offer to declining Dwight Howard, while the NFL's best player just received a record-setting $110 million extension – dwarfs what players in the most popular and violent sport get.)

When many big NFL contracts are drawn up, practically nobody figures the player will get the ridiculous salaries at the back end of the deal. But the inflated totals make the agents look good when they're reported, help the player's ego and don't cost the teams any sleep. Once the player is used up the team is going to dump him anyway.

If even the best and brightest stars with those $100 million deals can't clear half of what they signed on for, everyone else has little chance. And most of the time when a player gets cut, it's because his body is breaking down from playing a violent sport. They get beat up and the team doesn't have to keep paying them once their bodies give out. And the physical effects of playing football generally last far longer than the effects from other sports.

So to players like Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco, who signed massive extensions this offseason, don't plan on spending all that money you signed up for.

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