This Thursday’s New York Beacon will feature my thoughts on the Antonio Pierce situation as he was cleared of any wrongdoing in last fall’s incident involving former teammate, Plaxico Burress . There are probably one hundred members of the Giants’ media that were running on a similar angle on Monday, but for a small weekly such as the Beacon, there’s an understanding that being first to the story doesn’t mean you’ll have the best perspective.
Over a year ago, there was chatter about New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning becoming the NFL’s next $100 million man. Talks between his agent, Tom Condon and general manager Jerry Reese were scuttled (at least to the media’s knowledge) for after the conclusion of the 2008 season. It was inevitable, much to the chagrin of his staunchest critics; which makes the agreement all the more of a hot topic.
There are many a fan, blogger and media personality who will criticize the deal because the one word that sticks in their minds; “skittish”. Reese’s description of his play at the time back in late November ’07 – weeks before his strong postseason en route to a Super Bowl title – politely sums up much of what many feel about the sixth-year signal caller. Some of those critiques are fair as he has a penchant for the ill-advised turnover (that “skittish” remark came in the aftermath of the worst game of his career; a painful-to-witness-in-person four-INT performance at home against the Minnesota Vikings). He’s not the fleetest of foot, though in the Giants’ offense, he’s not asked to run like Philadelphia’s Donovan McNabb or Dallas’ Tony Romo. Yet, the attack on Manning that slowly began to dissipate last season is his perceived lack of hellfire and brimstone in his belly. That even-keeled demeanor may still unnerve some of those with an interest in Big Blue; however, it has also helped him navigate choppy waters in a metropolitan area that prides itself in letting its athletes know how they feel.
All of this is said because while some feel that the near-$100 million pact is a few million too much for the younger Manning, the reality is that the going rate for franchise quarterbacks have gone up immensely over the past decade.
In league history, there are only seven players who have ever met or crossed the $100 million threshold that Eli’s contract slightly missed:
- Six of them are quarterbacks, with Washington defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth becoming the first non-QB and first defensive player to see that amount.
- Brett Favre was the first when he signed a 10-year, $100 million deal in 2001 with Green Bay. Favre, as the world knows, had as many retirement sagas as touchdowns and interceptions thrown and despite his first-ballot Hall of Fame credentials, had not been in the Super Bowl since the 1997 season (XXXII in Jan. 1998) and shot both the Packers and Jets in the proverbial foot more often than some want to acknowledge.
- McNabb followed suit in Philly the following year, beginning a 12-year, $115 million contract. One SB appearance and four other conference championship game appearances should tell Eagles fans that he’s lived up to his end of the bargain, but more often than not in his tenure, he has been a man on an island, whether by his own doing or by uber-irrational levels of criticism thrown his way.
- Michael Vick…
- Big brother Peyton signed his seven-season, $132.5 million deal the same season as Vick (2005) and could very well break every QB-related record before it’s over. He’s not loved in most places, but he has reached the Undeniable realm of elite professional athletes: “I can’t stand him and as much as I want to call him a bum, he just beat my team so bad that the franchise is considering folding tomorrow out of embarrassment.”
- Carson Palmer’s nine-year-$119.7 million contract seemed dubious as he came off a devastating knee injury in the 2005 (06) postseason. His health has been a major issue over the last two seasons, but the Cincinnati Bengals have had far more issues to deal with simultaneously.
- Finally, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger signed a eight-year, $102 million deal and won his second Super Bowl within the first season. We can say what we will about recent sexual assault allegations lobbied his way, but we can also say that the true worthiness of this deal has yet to be determined with seven years to go.
Unquestionably, the numbers of Eli’s deal places him just below these men, but his statistics lie in the middle of the pack among starting quarterbacks last year. The manner of how he became a Giant wasn’t the most favorable in the history of the game, but the Super Bowl title gave him marketability and bought him some reserved judgment with a fan base that called for his head on a skewer not too long ago. He would have not gone on the open market after his rookie contract expires this year as both parties are committed to him retiring as a Giant. However, though he is part of the bonus baby generation (the high priced first-round picks we have grown accustomed to), Eli is a far more proven commodity than anyone else that would have been available in 2010 via free agency or the college ranks.
What should make this deal easier to swallow for his critics – if they so choose- is that the Giants organization is in a far better position to give Eli this deal than most others. Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez – both whom should thank Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy for staying in college this year – picked up $70 million in bonuses before taking a snap for teams (Detroit Lions, New York Jets) that have plenty more issues than who plays under center. Eli wouldn’t have gotten the exact dollars that he gets with the Giants if he went elsewhere, but teams that typically shell out major dollars for a quarterback via free agency or the Draft have a lot more holes to fill. Take a look at the teams with quarterback competition in training camp and you might see that there are other equally, it not more important position battles.
The contract is about much more than the stats, though Eli’s tell a far different story than brother Peyton or McNabb. They tell a different story than his truer peers in Roethlisberger, Romo or San Diego’s Phillip Rivers. Of course, the success of all quarterbacks in this league are pale compared to three-time champ Tom Brady; he signed a shorter six-year, $60 million deal in 2005 (modified later to give New England room to suit Randy Moss). Yet, at least with Eli, New York knows that for the duration of the deal, they have someone who has already shown the ability to ride through turbulence. A few more dollars only changes the number of critics, not the player himself.