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Big contract, big money? Big problems

  • By Marc Sessler NFL.com
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When Calvin Johnson signed his eight-year, $132 million contract with Detroit, the Lions star wideout became the eleventh NFL player to earn a deal north of $100 million.

Those introspective nights slow-cooking Ramen noodles? Totally over for Megatron

The guaranteed dough alone remains outrageous, but even if descendants of the Manning family won't punch a timecard for another 1,000 years, there's a deadly catch: Not one of these $100 million deals have been completed.

Age, injury and sideshow drama have taken a bitter toll.

Larry Fitzgerald ($128.5M over eight years), Eli Manning ($106.9M over seven) and Ben Roethlisberger ($102M over eight) are still entrenched in their mega-pacts and appear to be worth every penny.

But what about that nine-year, $118.75 million deal Carson Palmer signed with the Bengals in 2005?

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

Not so fast, big guy. 

And Palmer's not alone. The $100M Club is a booby trap, scattered with cautionary tales and broken dreams. 

Travel with us into the abyss:

  • 1. Albert Haynesworth

    Cantankerous, enigmatic and not immune to bouts of road rage, Big Al Haynesworth turned out to be one of the most expensive errors in Redskins history. Acquiring the behemoth for a cool $100 million over seven years -- with $40 million guaranteed -- Washington hoped the defensive tackle would operate as a holy terror unleashed on quarterbacks league-wide.

    Instead, his brief stay in our nation's capital was a drama-heavy debacle, remembered less for sacks and more for the 10 days he required to execute a conditioning test in 2010's training camp. He passed it, finally, but failed woefully on the field. He was traded to the Patriots before the 2011 campaign, but earned a pink slip soon after. His pockets? Still brimming with the $41 million he stole from the 'Skins.

  • 2. Drew Bledsoe

    Unlike Haynesworth, Drew Bledsoe didn't take the money and run.

    The unquestioned leader of the Patriots, Bledsoe's 10-year, $103 million deal in March 2001 came just in time for a head-on collision with fate in the form of Jets linebacker Mo Lewis. Mo's bone-crushing hit on Bledsoe in Week 2 of the 2001 season sent the veteran QB to the sideline. What would New England do?

    In marched a guy you might be familiar with -- Tom Brady -- sending Bledsoe's Pats career up in smoke. Less than a year later, Drew was under center for the Buffalo Bills and that unwieldy contract? Restructured in 2004.

  • 3. Daunte Culpepper

    In some alternate universe, our friend Daunte Culpepper enters 2012 as a dangerous component of the Minnesota Vikings, a man in the final season of the wild 10-year, $102 million deal he signed way back in May 2003.

    In this world, Culpepper was most recently hailed as the pride and joy of the Sacramento Mountain Lions, the UFL franchise he toiled for in 2010, far from the bright lights.

    It wasn't always this bleak. Early on, Culpepper made money the old-fashioned way: He earned it, throwing for a 2004 best 4,717 passing yards. Then the unraveling: One very ill-advised evening on a Lake Minnetonka pleasure boat, his 2006 trade to Miami, and a feverish string of injuries and dead-to-the-world outings that sent Culpepper into the books.

  • 4. Michael Vick

    Talk about second chances. Vick holds the distinction of being the only player in NFL history to sign two $100 million contracts.

    The first one (a 10-year, $130 million deal with the Falcons in 2004) ended in disaster, with Vick free-falling out of the league to serve a prison sentence on federal dogfighting charges.

    Upon his release, Andy Reid and the Eagles took a chance, patiently waiting for Vick to regain his sea legs. They were richly rewarded with Vick's astonishing 2010 season. In return: the six-year, $100 million deal he signed with the Eagles in 2011.

  • 5. Brett Favre

    Shortly after signing his 10-year, $101.5 million contract with Green Bay in 2001, the one-and-only Favre had this to say:

    "I do want to be a Packer for life. I couldn't envision myself playing with another team -- don't want to. If that was to ever come up, I probably would just retire. I've made enough money to where I don't need to jump ship and go somewhere else. It was just important to me to stay here."

    Totally credible.

Marc Sessler covers all things NFL on the "Around The League" blog.

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