Three No. 1s, many millions spent

In flipping through the Giants-Raiders game Sunday -- a game that was competitive for only a few minutes -- my business-of-football-obsessed brain was struck by the fact that there were three players in the game who were not only first-round quarterbacks, they were also the first picks in the NFL Draft. They are:

David Carr

Carr, who played considerably in the game because the Giants had a sizable lead against an inferior opponent, was the first pick of the Houston Texans in the 2002 draft. His contract -- if played out – was worth more than $46 million, with $11 million in an initial signing bonus. Although his performance was average, the Texans chose -- in February 2006 -- to exercise an $8M “buyback” clause in Carr’s contract to buy his rights for three more seasons. He lasted one and was released in 2007 after Houston paid him more than $35 million for his 22 victories, or about $1.6M per win.

In 2007, Carr signed a two-year, $6.2M contract with the Carolina Panthers that included $3M in guaranteed bonus. He played in six games for the Panthers before being released halfway through the contract.

In 2008, Carr signed with the Giants for one year and $1 million. And this year, prior to the start of free agency, they re-signed him, this time to a one-year, $2.1M deal.

Carr has certainly maximized his earnings, if not his potential. Based on the above, he has earned almost $40M in his NFL career so far. He now sits comfortably behind Eli Manning on a championship-contending team making his $2M. Not a bad gig for someone with $40M in the bank.

JaMarcus Russell

Ouch, I know. As the first pick in the 2007 draft and a holdout until mid-September, Russell signed a six-year contract with total potential value of $68M (his chances of making that sum have vanished) and guarantees of over $31.5M. At the time, the guaranteed portion of the contract made him the second-highest paid quarterback in the league, trailing only Peyton Manning (both have since been eclipsed by another first-round pick in the draft, Matthew Stafford).

Russell is in the third year of a contract that has made him the poster child for a rookie compensation system, one that will be addressed in bargaining between the NFL and NFL Players Association in the coming months.

So far in his career, in earning his $31.5M – it’s hard to believe he will earn more than the guaranteed portion of the contract -- Russell has played in 24 games with an average passer rating of 67.6. Thanks to Browns QB Derek Anderson, Russell’s current rating of 42.7 is only second-to-last in the NFL, although his completion percentage of 42.1 percent is rock bottom.

Russell may be the player in the NFL who has done the least to make the most.

Eli Manning

And now some good news about money well spent.

As the first pick in the 2004 draft, Manning received a contract with a potential value of $54M, with $20M guaranteed. Manning played five years of an original six-year term before the Giants replaced that rookie contract with a new one in August.

Manning’s new six-year deal has a stunning potential value of $97.5M, putting him at the top of the food chain in APY (average per year) at $16.25M. The guaranteed portion of Manning’s deal is $35M, equal to the functional guarantee received by Matt Cassel and trailing only the Stafford deal in pure guaranteed money.

Obviously, Manning has delivered for the Giants -- and they hope the best is yet to come. Watching from the sideline in the brutal conditions of Green Bay in the NFC Championship a couple of years ago, I became a believer.

Manning’s compensation will soon be surpassed by someone with the same last name. More on that coming soon.

One game, three former first picks in the NFL Draft as quarterbacks, over $150M of money on display (in various levels of performance or non-performance).

A couple of other thoughts:

Kyle Orton: No surprise here. I watched Orton beat the Packers in Chicago just before Christmas 2007 when the conditions could be conservatively described as brutal. No one wanted to be playing that game, but Orton played hard and played well. Josh McDaniels wanted Orton more than he wanted Jay Cutler, Jason Campbell or anyone else who was offered to him for Cutler.

Darnell Dockett: Some whine coming out of the desert, as Dockett has re-started talk about his contract not being addressed. Get in line. Dockett has this year, next year and 2011 before his contract is up. Nothing happening there any time soon.

Matt Hasselbeck: I admit to being partial here because he’s a friend, but think he make a difference in Seattle?

Blackouts: It’s only been a couple of weeks since the concern about several weekly blackouts in the NFL and outrage that the league would not adjust its blackout policy. There have been four blackouts in five weeks of NFL games. No more outrage.

Happy Columbus Day.

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