Mario Williams of the Buffalo Bills received a lucrative contract this past offseason but has only recently begun to play at a high level and justify the amount of money the franchise invested in him.
There seems to be a similar story within each NFL franchise.
Seemingly every year there are players that finally come around and begin to prove why their franchise invested so much money in them.
We are often left scratching our heads as to why a certain player earned so much money in free agency or contract talks. Only weeks, or sometimes years later do we begin to understand.
That is the case with Williams and these five players who are proving they may be worth every penny yet.
The Carolina Panthers hit defensive end Charles Johnson with a six-year, $76 million contract before the start of the 2011 season.
Sure, Johnson was coming off an 11-sack season, but it seemed like a bit of an overreach. Johnson followed with a nine-sack performance.
With Johnson making $11 million in 2012, we were left wondering if we had seen the absolute best of Johnson after he only tallied 3.5 sacks in the first seven contests—all of which came in the same game.
Nonetheless, Johnson has once again proved us wrong, as he has turned it on and racked up five sacks in his last five games. A little more consistency would be nice, but Johnson is once again proving with big numbers why he deserved the big financial investment.
The Tennessee Titans gave running back Chris Johnson a six-year, $55 million contract before last season, but he responded with only 1,047 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Those are petty numbers for a man who once rushed for 2,000 yards in a single season.
Johnson, despite only playing in 11 games so far in 2012, is on pace to shatter his numbers from a year ago. He's already racked up 942 yards and four touchdowns while averaging an impressive 4.9 yards per carry.
The Titans aren't exactly the best team in the land, but Johnson is finally back to playing like the franchise running back the organization knows he can be.
It's turned out to be a great investment.
In 11 games as the New Orleans middle linebacker, Lofton has recorded 93 tackles, one interception and a forced fumble.
While the Saints have the most cringe-worthy defense in the NFL in every regard, it's hard to put the blame on Lofton. He's been a bright spot and more than handled the leadership responsibilities when Jonathan Vilma was suspended.
Lofton remains an integral part of the roster in New Orleans, and for that he's been worth the money.
After D'Qwell Jackson registered a breakout season in 2011 with 116 tackles and 3.5 sacks with the Cleveland Browns, the organization subsequently rewarded him with a four-year, $42.5 million contract.
It came as a surprise to many, considering Jackson had been nothing more than an above-average player before. But Jackson responded. Emphatically.
In 11 games, Jackson has accumulated 84 tackles and three sacks, along with two forced fumbles and two interceptions. He is the heart and soul of a vastly underrated defense that keeps the Browns in games.
Jackson is the perfect example of a stellar player that doesn't receive the credit he deserves. Fortunately, as he's proving, Jackson is receiving the money he deserves.
The Washington Redskins needed a No. 1 wide receiver to pair with the No. 2 overall selection in the 2012 NFL draft in rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Washington found their man in free-agent receiver Pierre Garcon, whom the Redskins front office signed this past offseason to a five-year, $42.5 million deal.
Unfortunately, Garcon has had serious issues staying healthy, leading some to question the deal.
In Week 12 against the Dallas Cowboys, Garcon showed exactly what he was capable of. He caught five passes for 93 yards and a touchdown while the Redskins saved their season with an NFC East victory.
If he can stay healthy, Garcon is on the fast track to showing everyone exactly why Washington invested so much in him and handed him the responsibilities of bringing a rookie quarterback along.
The Buffalo Bills made a jaw-dropping signing this past offseason when they were able to lure Mario Williams away from the Houston Texans.
The reason? A six-year, $96 million contract.
With unrealistic expectations, NFL fans were bound to be disappointed no matter what Williams did. He failed to produce for the first half of the season while battling a wrist injury. Williams only notched 3.5 sacks in the first eight weeks of the season.
Williams has turned things around in a big way, having racked up five sacks in his past four games.
It's not exactly $96 million-worthy just yet, but we're seeing flashes of why the Bills dished out so much cash to Williams. The best may be yet to come if recent trends are to be believed.