As the San Francisco 49ers roll into the 2012 NFL playoffs, it's only natural to reflect on how the team earned their 13-3 record.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh's presence has been instrumental, but so too have the cost-efficient contracts signed by GM Trent Baalke and the front office.
Some contracts are dirt cheap, one-year offers, while others are multi-year steals. All have helped propel the Niners to the NFC's No. 2 seed.
Let's take a look at San Francisco's most valuable contracts.
Fans didn't exactly rejoice when the 49ers re-signed Alex Smith to a one-year, $5 million deal in the offseason.
However, Smith has done more than enough to earn his paycheck in 2011.
Sure, his 17 touchdowns won't blow anyone away, but he rates ninth in passer rating, and his five interceptions is one of the lowest on record for a full-time starting quarterback.
In all, he has been a perfect game manager for the 49ers' solid offense.
Not bad for a guy being paid Charlie Whitehurst money.
As a member of the Washington Redskins, Carlos Rogers never quite lived up to the hype of being a first-round draft pick.
When he went on the open market, the cornerback could only fetch a one-year, $2.125 million deal by the 49ers.
With the Niners, Rogers has starred in a drastically improved secondary; he nabbed six interceptions in 2011—fourth in the NFL.
His efforts have been rewarded with his first Pro Bowl selection.
As a free agent last offseason, Dashon Goldson couldn't find a long-term contract.
Goldson settled on re-signing with the 49ers to a one-year, $1.2 million deal.
The free safety has proved to be a huge bargain in 2011, matching Carlos Rogers with six interceptions.
Like Rogers, he'll be making his first trip to Honolulu (unless the 49ers make the Super Bowl) as a Pro Bowler.
After being drafted in the third round in 2010, NaVorro Bowman signed a four-year contract worth less than $2.5 million.
His meager salary is dwarfed by his gigantic play in 2011. In his first season as a starter, Bowman lead the team in tackles with 143. The linebacker also stepped up during perennial Pro Bowler Patrick Willis' extended injury absence.
While Bowman was only a Pro Bowl alternate, he did earn first-team All-Pro honors.
Even for a punter, Andy Lee seems underpaid.
Lee makes around $1 million annually, the 10th-largest salary for a punter. Yet, he's arguably the league's best.
Lee led the NFL in both punting average, at 50.9 yards a boot, and net yardage, with 44.6. He's being rewarded with a much-deserved third Pro Bowl honor.
Lee's value in the field position game must be more valuable than his scant salary.