One of the most famous lines in sports movie history comes from Jerry Maguire, when wide receiver Rod Tidwell tells Jerry to "show him the money."
Drama or reality?
NFL players are rewarded handsomely for what they do on a football field, but are they worth it?
Not in the sense of are NFL players worth the millions they make (they are), but let's go one step further and look at the highest paid player on each team.
Which are worth it, and which are robbing from the team's coffers?
Larry Fitzgerald is the best player on the Arizona Cardinals roster, so it stands to reason that he would also be the highest paid.
You will get no complaints from me. Fitzgerald is one of the best receivers in the NFL, and if anything, he's underpaid based on his 2011 salary.
Fitzgerald will become a free agent after the 2011 season, at which time he should bring in a humongous new deal.
Bottom line: Fitzgerald is worth it.
As one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL today, and arguably the best young quarterback in the league, Matt Ryan is still making bank off his rookie contract.
It has to be good to see eight digits on your income tax return like Matt Ryan does.
The good news for Falcons fans is that Ryan is worth it. And then some. He has quickly led Atlanta back to the playoffs, including posting an NFC best 13 wins in 2010.
Bottom line: Ryan is worth it.
As one of the best teams in the NFL, it seems fair that the Baltimore Ravens would also have some of the best players. That much is agreeable, or at least logical.
One of those amazing players is defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, and he's paid like it too.
Ngata might just be the best defensive lineman in football right now. He may command a huge salary in 2011, but he is also an irreplaceable part of the Ravens defense.
Bottom line: Ngata is worth it.
It's a little comical that the highest paid Buffalo Bill makes just over $3 million per year. I mean, I know the economy in Buffalo is tough, but their highest paid player makes 1/4 as much as the Ravens' highest.
In Buffalo the money is spread evenly; with no real superstar player to pay the team is able to stay well below the NFL cap of $120 million.
Evans is a smart receiver, and as a veteran on a young team, he's a leader. Is he worthy of $3.275 million per year, though?
On the open market it would be tough for Evans to command his current salary, but to a Bills team that already has him, he's worth it.
Bottom line: Evans is worth it.
Ryan Kalil's status as the highest paid Carolina Panther may change once the accurate financials are known about Charles Johnson, DeAngelo Williams and Cam Newton's new contracts. For now, the Panthers' center is their highest paid player.
Kalil is a good center, and a backbone of a good offensive line. But is he worth $10 million per year?
This is actually tougher than some may think, but in the end I would say Kalil is worth the money due to his leadership ability and the fact that he plays a premier position.
Bottom line: Kalil is worth it.
So far, so good on the top paid players list. Jay Cutler, as the Bears' franchise quarterback, is definitely worth the change they are throwing his way.
Some may disagree, but ask a Bears fan how long the team has waited for a true franchise quarterback and he will tell you that paying Cutler $7.6 million is worth it.
Chicago made the NFC Championship game last year with a balanced offensive attack, but also with Cutler leading the charge. That alone makes this contract a good value.
Bottom line: Cutler is worth it.
There is a lot wrong with this. And I mean a lot.
If anyone wonders why the Cincinnati Bengals are one of the least successful NFL franchises of the past decade, here's Exhibit A.
The Bengals are paying what amounts to a backup defensive end almost $4 million per season. To make matters worse, he's their highest paid player.
If fans wonder why guys like Johnathan Joseph leave town, this is it.
Bottom line: Geathers is not worth it.
As one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL, if not the best, period, Joe Thomas is worth every dollar the Cleveland Browns are paying him. Yes, all eight million of them.
Thomas is a cornerstone that Cleveland can build their offense around, and the type of player you want to keep on the roster as long as possible.
Thomas may be too quiet to get the fanfare of other tackles, but those around the NFL know he's an elite left tackle.
Bottom line: Thomas is worth it.
Tony Romo, at least in 2009, was definitely worth the money the Dallas Cowboys are paying him. The 2010 version of Romo looked like he was stealing from the bank.
Romo is on the border of being overpaid, based on his production and inability to win a playoff game in Dallas.
It's also surprising that Romo, not DeMarcus Ware, is the highest paid player in Dallas. That in itself is a mistake.
Bottom line: Romo is not worth it.
Guess who the fourth highest paid player in the NFL is? If you cheated and read the headline, you'll know it is Denver Broncos' defensive end Elvis Dumervil.
Sure, defensive ends are worth serious money, especially the great ones, but Dumervil isn't great. He's definitely not worth more than Julius Peppers, Trent Cole or Dwight Freeney.
Bottom line: Dumervil is not worth it
I really want to like Matthew Stafford, and here's hoping he can stay healthy this year, because if not, he's going to have to take a huge pay cut.
Stafford has started just 13 games over the last two seasons due to injury, but he's still being paid like the No. 1 overall pick. Stafford's injuries have been freakish in nature, so the blame is not on him, but the pressure will be heavy in 2011 for Stafford to prove his worth.
Bottom line: Stafford has not been worth it...but he might be this year.
I was surprised to not see Aaron Rodgers as the highest paid member of the Green Bay Packers, but it makes sense that a future Hall of Famer like Charles Woodson would make as much as he does.
Green Bay has done a great job of keeping salaries down and paying many people a good amount of money, versus teams who spend a lot on one player (hello, Indianapolis Colts).
The Packers have been successful with this model, obviously, since they won the Super Bowl last year.
Bottom line: Woodson is worth it
Talk about your surprises. Owen Daniels, not Andre Johnson or Mario Williams, is the highest paid member of the Houston Texans.
A few things stand out here:
1. The Texans have done a great job assembling talent and keeping salaries low.
2. Johnathan Joseph will shatter this salary number once his contract data is shown.
3. Owen Daniels is massively overpaid.
Bottom line: Daniels is not worth it.
Sweet lord, that's a lot of money.
Peyton Manning is not only the highest paid player for the Indianapolis Colts, he's the highest paid player in the game.
I have a bit of a reputation as a Manning-hater, which is probably true to some extent, but in this instance I'll say that the Indianapolis Colts have to pay Manning anything he wants. They're handcuffed to him, at the waist, for the rest of his career.
Manning is all the Colts have, and if he were to go down they would be screwed. So, they'll pay him 20 percent of their salary cap and be satisfied with a 9-7 season as the talent around Manning erodes.
Bottom line: Manning is worth it
2011 Salary: $7,975,000
The Jacksonville Jaguars made enough big money signings through free agency this summer that it is unlikely David Garrard will keep his spot atop their salaries list for long. But until those numbers are known, the quarterback is king in Jacksonville.
Garrard is a good quarterback, but that's it. He will not lead the Jaguars to a Super Bowl, and he's too old to get better. What they have is a solid quarterback who can win games if the talent around him is above par.
What is that worth in today's NFL? Apparently almost $8 million.
Bottom line: Garrard is not worth it.
Fun fact: Matt Cassel makes almost $9 million more than the second highest paid member of the Kansas City Chiefs, running back Jamaal Charles.
I like Matt Cassel; he seems to be a quarterback with room to grow and a likeable attitude. He also led the Chiefs to an AFC West championship last year, so he's proven that he can win games in the regular season.
What I don't like is the amount of money the Chiefs are paying a quarterback who still needs to prove himself in the playoffs.
Bottom line: Cassel is good, but not worth it.
The franchise tag was set up to protect NFL teams from losing their best players to free agency. Some teams, like the Philadelphia Eagles, use the tag wisely to keep players like Michael Vick from hitting the open market. Others, like the Miami Dolphins, are clueless.
Paul Soliai is a good nose tackle, but there is no freaking way he's worth $12 million per. At all. This is downright, out of this world, Al Davis-level crazy.
Bottom line: Soliai is not worth it.
As the NFL's best running back, Adrian Peterson should make the most of any ball carrier, and he does. But the oddity is that Peterson makes $3 million per year more than the No. 2 highest paid back, Steven Jackson.
Don't get me wrong, Peterson is incredibly valuable, but wouldn't he have been happy making $500k more than the next best guy?
I hate to say it, but Peterson is overpaid.
Bottom line: Peterson is not worth it.
I am a fan of Logan Mankins, a big fan actually. To me he is the best guard in football, and he's worthy of being paid like it.
Here's the deal, Mankins makes twice as much as the NFL's best overall player Tom Brady.
Mr. Three Super Bowls, Tom Brady. The same guy who holds the NFL record for single-season wins and touchdowns.
It's no fault of Mankins, he was tagged as the franchise player and will collect his money, but the Patriots are lucky their quarterback (cough, cough, Peyton Manning) didn't handcuff their salary cap with an astronomical figure.
Bottom line: Mankins is worth it.
Who else would it be? The New Orleans Saints are Drew Brees' team.
You really cannot argue against the salary that Brees makes. It's reasonable for the position and his success, if even on the low side. He's definitely earned his pay as he led the Saints to a Super Bowl win after the 2009 season.
Bottom line: Brees is worth it.
What has Manning given the Giants since the 2007 season to warrant a pay higher than Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Matt Schaub and Joe Flacco?
Manning apologists will point to the fact that "he" won a Super Bowl. Yep, the Giants sure did, four years ago.
Bottom line: Manning is not worth it.
Here is proof that the former system for paying NFL rookies drafted in the top 10 was way off base. Ready?
The system of paying for potential instead of production is thankfully over. Unfortunately, guys like Sanchez are still reaping the benefits.
Bottom line: Sanchez isn't worth it.
Another example of how a crazy owner can be a huge problem for NFL teams, Richard Seymour will make $15 million in 2011.
Seymour is a very good defensive tackle, you could argue one of the best in the game, but he's the third highest paid player in all of football due to the Raiders' giving him a two-year, $30 million deal.
Seymour's good, but he's definitely not that good.
Bottom line: Seymour isn't worth it.
2011 Salary: $15,975,000
If Peyton Manning is worth $23 million per, then Michael Vick is worth the almost $16 million the Philadelphia Eagles will pay him in 2011.
Vick is a one-man wrecking crew on offense, able to break a defense apart as a runner, passer or decoy. As such, he's the most valuable player on a Philadelphia Eagles roster that is loaded with talent from top to bottom.
Bottom line: Vick is worth it.
With two Super Bowl rings, and almost a third, Ben Roethlisberger is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the NFL today.
Thankfully, he's not one of the most underpaid.
Big Ben makes a great living, but he's also worth the money. Especially when you consider that players with less production are making more than him straight out of college.
Bottom line: Roethlisberger is worth it.
It's hard to remember way back to 2009 when Vincent Jackson played his last full season in the NFL, but thankfully our good friends at Pro Football Focus keep track of these things.
During the 2009 season, Jackson ranked as the No. 1 wide receiver in football as the Chargers ran away with the AFC West crown.
If he can return to form after sitting out 11 games in 2010, Jackson will earn the almost $12 million coming his way.
Bottom line: Jackson is worth it.
No. No. Noooooo.
Alex Smith will go down in history as one of the greatest draft busts ever, right there with JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf. What's perplexing is that he's now on his third NFL contract. The 49ers keep paying him!
I have given up trying to understand this one.
Bottom line: Smith is not worth it.
Before doing much research on Marcus Trufant, I thought that almost $6 million was a reasonable sum for a starting cornerback in the NFL.
Boy was I wrong.
Trufant ranked No. 87 on Pro Football Focus' list of the best cornerbacks in the NFL last year. And that's not an opinion, these are statistics.
Trufant, a one-time first-round draft pick, owes Paul Allen a refund.
Bottom line: Trufant is not worth it.
2011 Salary: $8,500,000
Jason Smith, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft, is a quality starter at right tackle for the St. Louis Rams, but he's another exhibit in the argument for a rookie wage scale.
Smith will pocket $8.5 million in 2011, one season after he allowed 32 quarterback pressures/hits/sacks in 15 starts.
That's $265,625 for every pressure he allowed.
Bottom line: Smith is not worth it.
Well, I didn't expect to see Kellen Winslow as the highest paid member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Not at all.
Winslow had all but fallen off my radar over the last several seasons, but apparently he is still collecting a check in Tampa Bay.
All kidding aside, Winslow has to be one of the most overpaid players in the NFL.
Bottom line: Winslow is not worth it.
The fact that anyone on this roster makes more than running back Chris Johnson is an absolute joke.
Chris Hope is a good safety, and a dependable starter, but he should be nowhere close to a $6.5 million salary and he should never be making almost six million more per year than the NFL's second best running back.
Bottom line: Hope is not worth it.
Trent Williams caught a lot of heat during the 2010 season, as many wanted to call him a draft bust after the Washington Redskins made him the No. 4 overall pick in the 2010 draft.
Williams started 14 games at left tackle, and gave up 11 sacks with six penalties. While those numbers won't get him in the Pro Bowl just yet, they aren't terrible for a rookie left tackle.
Williams has shown the potential to develop into a very good tackle. For now, he's worth the investment.
Bottom line: Williams is worth it.