NFL: 5 Players Who Must Prove Their Worth in 2011
The NFL is all about what you've done for me lately.
Winning a Super Bowl will only carry you so far in a city like New York if you don't validate it with at least a couple playoff wins.
And earning a huge contract for being perceived as one of the elite defensive players will only enrage fans if they don't see effort.
The current structure of the NFL is set up to pay rookies an obscene amount of money in their signing bonus and to give mega contracts to proven veterans.
The dilemma teams run into is rookies may not warrant the investment and veterans may have peaked way too early for the price tag they demanded.
The five players on this list have cashed a big paycheck and need to prove they are actually worthy of the money.
All contract information is taken from rotoworld.com.
No.5: Mark Sanchez
People laughed at the New York Jets when they selected USC quarterback Mark Sanchez with the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft.
The laughs grew louder when they Jets signed Sanchez to a five-year deal worth $44.5 million, which included a $10 million signing bonus as part of his $28 million guaranteed.
The critics went silent as Sanchez found his way to the AFC Championship game in each of his first two seasons.
The problem facing Sanchez is people still view him as being the piece holding the Jets back from winning a Super Bowl.
Cities like Minnesota and Cleveland would be fine with a quarterback getting them close enough.
New York doesn't settle, especially when the quarterback is going to bring in $14.75 million in 2011.
This season Sanchez may have to get his team over the hump or get out of town.
Maybe it's unfair to put heat on Sanchez this early in his career, but it's a reality he will have to deal with.
No.4: Vincent Jackson
Last year ESPN's John Clayton reported Vincent Jackson wanted a five-year contract worth $50 million and $30 would be guaranteed.
The Chargers turned around and offered him $3.268 million before finally tendering him $583,000.
Jackson wasn't happy, sat out 11 games and, by the time he came back, the Chargers were dead.
This offseason the Chargers offered Jackson a franchise tag, which should be worth $10 million according the San Diego Union-Tribune.
A trade could also be in the works according to the same source if the Chargers receive a second-round pick and a conditional mid-round pick.
Maybe I'm missing something here, but I wouldn't pay top dollar for a guy whose career highs are 68 receptions, 1,167 yards and 9 touchdowns.
Would you cough up big-time money for that?
No.3: Albert Haynesworth
I always thought the most entertaining aspect of each offseason was when Daniel Snyder screwed the pooch with a brain-scratching free agent signing.
Little did I know that by adding Mike Shanahan to the mix made things even better.
In 2009 former head coach Jim Zorn endured the headache of Albert Haynesworth, who signed a six-year, $100 million contract. Haynesworth was guaranteed $41 million, which included a $5 million signing bonus.
When Zorn was shown the door at the end of the 2009, Shanahan inherited the mess left behind, including Haynesworth.
The two-time Super Bowl winning head coach made an example of Haynesworth.
It didn't matter that Haynesworth had one of the biggest price tags in NFL history, Shanahan was not going to start the two-time All Pro.
The contentious relationship still continues and Shanahan refuses to release the disgruntled defensive tackle. Shanahan won't even trade him unless he gets a second-round pick, according to the Washington Post.
No one is sure where Haynesworth will play next year, but everyone agrees he needs to find his way onto the field and start earning his paycheck.
No.2: Matthew Stafford
The Detroit Lions took Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford with the first overall pick in the 2009 draft.
They turned around and signed him to a six-year deal worth $72 million before he even took a snap. The contract is structured to make $41.75 million guaranteed, which includes an $18.2 million signing bonus.
In two seasons with the Lions, he has played in 13 games and complied a 3-10 record.
His record is not a great indicator of his talents, but when you get that much money, there is no other way to evaluate your worth.
Stafford's value took a major hit last season when he injured his right shoulder against the Chicago Bears in Week 1 and the re-injured it in Week 8 when the Lions hosted the New York Jets.
It was painful to watch the injuries on two levels.
First, it looked like it hurt. Second, Stafford played well up to that point. In his three games last year, he threw six touchdowns against one interception and already had 535 passing yards.
This year people expect the Lions to make a push to the playoffs. If Stafford can't stay healthy or continue his progress, Detroit may be forced to cut their losses find someone who can be a reliable option to compliment an offense filled with great young talents like Calvin Johnson and Jahvid Best.
Random thought: Can you imagine what would have happened if the Lions took Mark Sanchez with the first overall pick?
No.1: Eli Manning
In the 2007 playoffs Eli Manning ripped off three straight road wins with the New York Giants before winning the Super Bowl against the previously undefeated New England Patriots.
In 2008 Manning went to his first Pro Bowl and the Giants finished the season with a 12-4 record.
It all added up to the Giants signing Manning to a seven-year, $106.9 million contract in 2009. The deal contained $35 million guaranteed with $13 million coming via the signing bonus.
At the time, Manning was the highest-paid player in the NFL.
I get the contract extension, but the "highest paid player in the NFL" thing makes me wonder what the hell is going on in owners Steve Tisch and John Mara's offices.
Outside of 2007 Manning has never won a playoff game. I completely understand how great 2007 was, but at some point, you need to validate the win if you're going to lug around a contract worth more than 17 other teams' entire 2009 payroll.
I'm not asking Manning to win another Super Bowl, but maybe, he could make the playoffs and possibly win a game.
In his three other playoff appearances, he has lost twice at home and twice to the divisional rival Philadelphia.
If that warrants you being the highest paid player in the NFL, Jay Cutler is well on his way.