Newsflash: NFL contracts aren't fully guaranteed. As a result, agents are able to hype player contracts based on inflated annual averages and base salaries that oftentimes will never actually find the bank accounts of those they represent.
The problem is that the media then relays those base numbers to all of the fans, and then we move on to the next event in the 24-hour sports news cycle. From that point forward, we basically forget about guaranteed money (if we even learn those totals) and move on assuming Player X is paid more handsomely than Player Y, even if that isn't really the case.
It doesn't help that we're used to contracts in the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball being generally guaranteed. And the nature of the word "contract" usually implies that when everything is signed, that money belongs to the player in question.
My point is that we should stop even looking at base salaries and total contract values, because six-year deals worth $60 million are actually usually two-year deals worth $15 million. Beyond that, it's up to the team to keep paying. Rarely do six-year deals last six years. In fact, it's amazing how rarely four-year deals span four years.
Albert Haynesworth only got a fraction of that $100 million deal he signed with the Washington Redskins in 2009. That was a seven-year contract, but he was gone in two years and he wasn't even paid half of the money he was signed for.
Tony Romo's current contract is worth $108 million in total and $18 million per year. Aaron Rodgers' deal is worth only $110 million and $22 million per year. Not a big difference. But Romo's deal only guarantees him $40 million, whereas Rodgers is locked in for $54 million. That's the key difference.
Mario Williams' deal is worth $96 million altogether and $16 million a year. Tamba Hali's is worth only $57.5 million and $11.5 million a year. But Hali has the better contract because he received $35 million guaranteed, while Williams' guarantee was only $24.9 million.
In the NFL, where shelf lives are unbelievably short, players should only be thinking about maximizing guaranteed money and nothing else.