The Shutdown Five: Biggest contracts in NFL history

The Lions announced on Wednesday that they've signed Calvin Johnson to the biggest contract extension in NFL history ‒ worth a total of $132,000,000. Sure, the total value of a contract in the NFL is often pure fantasy, since a team can terminate the contract anytime it feels like it. But when it gets to nine digits, it's a pretty number, and it's a status symbol. It's a hood ornament, basically. Here, we look back at the biggest pre-Megatron contracts in NFL history.

5. Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants.
2009: 7 years, $106.9 million.

The Giants gave Eli the big money after he was named the MVP of Super Bowl XLII, and it paid off when he accomplished the same feat at Super Bowl XLVI. A lot of the names on this list you might look at and think, "That was probably not the best investment." I don't think you'll hear anyone complaining about Eli's money, though.

4. Donovan McNabb, QB, Philadelphia Eagles.
2002: 12 years, $115,000,000
The deal could've run through 2014, but by 2010, McNabb had been traded to the Washington Redskins, at which point his career trajectory would begin to resemble that of the Hindenburg. But McNabb did make six Pro Bowls for the Eagles (including in his last year with them in 2009), was the NFC Player of the Year in 2004 and got the Eagles to the Super Bowl in the same year. It's a better return than some of these gentlemen have offered. For example:

3. Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati Bengals.
2006: 9 years, $119,750,000
At the time, Carson Palmer was so thrilled to have signed this big, beautiful contract with the resurgent Bengals. Here's what he said upon signing:

"Hopefully this is the last place I'll end up playing. That's so rare in this league these days. It's so rare to see a person have a 5-, 8-, 10-, 12-year career in one place. And I feel very fortunate that it looks like that's going to be my future."

Four years after signing the deal, Palmer was refusing to ever put on a Bengals uniform again, and the Bengals seemed just fine with that. He played well the year after getting the contract, but since then, it's been injuries, mediocrity and disillusionment. The Bengals traded him to the Raiders halfway through the 2011 season.

2. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals.
2011: 8 years, $120,000,000
This was the deal that Calvin Johnson's deal had to eclipse. The Cardinals and Fitzgerald set the boilerplate for what elite receivers must be paid. Johnson's the only receiver in the NFL who can argue that he's in Fitzgerald's league, or even better. Incidentally, $120,000,000 is the exact amount of money you need to have in order to pull off the ascot look.

1. Michael Vick, QB, Atlanta Falcons.
2005: 10 years, $130,000,000.
2011: 6 years, $100,000,000
Oddly, the only man in NFL history to ever be given two $100,000,000 contracts is currently fighting his way back from bankruptcy. The lesson here: Don't make dogs fight other dogs. When Atlanta gave him the $130,000,000 in 2005, they probably envisioned him completing the entire deal. Obviously, that didn't happen, because you can't be an NFL quarterback when you're in prison. They play so many games after lights out. Remarkably, after his stint in the pen, Vick came back to play some of the best football of his career and earned another nine-digit contract.

Others who got $100,000,000:

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers.
2008: 8 years, $102,000,000.

Drew Bledsoe, QB, New England Patriots.
2001: 10 years, $103,000,000.

Brett Favre, QB, Green Bay Packers.
2001: 10 years, $100,000,000.

The first NFL player ever to get a $100,000,000 contract.

Albert Haynesworth, DT, Washington Redskins.
2009: 7 years, $100,000,000.

The most disastrous $100,000,000 contract ever given out, despite the best efforts of:

Daunte Culpepper, QB, Minnesota Vikings.
2003: 10 years, $102,000,000.

What to Read Next