The franchise tag is designed to benefit teams, as it allows them to hang onto the rights of at least one player every year. While teams continue to use the franchise tag, it's also starting to make some money for the players down the road.
Drew Brees was tagged by the New Orleans Saints earlier this offseason, with many people at the time thinking the two sides could agree to a longterm contract sometime before July 16, which is the deadline for franchise tagged players to do longterm deals with their team. Somewhere along the line the talks broke down, and a deal by July 16 no longer seems like a given.
Brees has created the necessary leverage to demand one of the largest contracts we've ever seen in the NFL. His franchise tag is worth $16.3 million, and after a ruling from arbitrator Stephen Burbank, we now know the franchise tag will be approximately $23.5 million in 2013 if the Saints decide to use it again. So, from a negotiation standpoint, Brees can see nearly $40 million coming in over the next two years. That's where contract negotiations should start.
The Saints, operating under a salary cap, know they have to be creative with the contract lest they pay one player a huge percentage of their entire salary cap. Every player, especially Brees, is important. But money has a way of changing viewpoints, like the Saints GM reportedly saying months ago that they view Brees as a "very good" and not a "great" quarterback.
As we await Brees and the Saints completing what should be the next 'Larger Than Life' contract, let's take a step back through time and remember a few of the other notable contracts.
Brett Favre, the first $100 million contract
Back in 2001, the Packers knew they had their quarterback of the future in Favre. Back then the money didn't flow like it did these days, but Green Bay still found a way to reward Favre with a 10-year, $100 million extension. Or, as it was called at the time, a "lifetime contract".
You know how the duration of that "lifetime contract" played out in Green Bay. And New York. And Minnesota.
Albert Haynesworth, the worst $100 million contract
As it turns out, Haynesworth is a bit of a jerk!
This is the worst contract given out in pro football. It's not that Haynesworth was so undeserving of the money -- he was the best defensive tackle in football at the time -- but that he turned into such a baby when he got paid. He refused to play in certain schemes, developed an attitude problem, and he generally didn't demonstrate the type of behavior that you would want the highest paid player on your team to demonstrate.
Peyton Manning, the best $100 million contract*
OK, I'm cheating a little bit because Manning's contract he signed in 2004 was only (only?) worth $99.2 million, but it's still the best example of when giving a guy a huge contract works out well. In 2004, Manning signed a seven-year, $99.2 million deal that included more than $30 million in guarantees. He played every meaningful down during that contract and even came away with a few MVP awards.
Manning's contract is what every GM hopes for when he signs a player to a deal of that magnitude -- productive and healthy.
Michael Vick, two $100 million contracts
Please don't let the irony of this escape you: the only man in football who has signed two $100 million contracts is in bankruptcy. Back in 2005, the Falcons signed Vick to a 10-year, $130 million contract, only to see it flushed away when Vick was caught fighting dogs. Vick got a second chance in 2011 when the Eagles gave him a $100 million deal that spanned six years.
Drew Bledsoe, the $100 million contract where you can still get benched
Drew Bledsoe's $103 million deal in March 2001 is really the starting point of the Tom Brady story. Bledsoe signed his contract prior to the 2001 season but didn't last very long, getting knocked out in the second game of the season before getting replaced by the backup.
That backup was a guy named Tom Brady, and the rest is history.
Some people don't remember how big of a deal it was for the Patriots to keep their $103 million man on the bench when he recovered from his injury. The media would explode on the Patriots if they did that now-a-days.
While we have dubbed these "Larger Than Life" contracts, there's one thing to remember when it comes to big money in the NFL -- contracts aren't guaranteed. That means most of these players listed did not or will not actually see the maximum value of the deal.