Bob Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets
Eli Manning might be the highest-paid player in the NFL, but he is far from the best. So go ahead and complain about the Giants' quarterback not deserving the $106.9 million coming to him in the next seven years.
But if you do, then please consider this:
Manning is the eighth quarterback in NFL history to get a contract surpassing $100 million, but he is one of only three members of that elite club to have achieved his sport's ultimate goal.
Eli, Ben Roethlisberger and Brett Favre are the only ones in the $100-million club to win a championship. With Manning entering just his sixth NFL season and with a terrific team around him, it stands to reason he will add to his one Super Bowl title.
So snicker about Manning making too much dough. But ask any fan who has rooted for Drew Bledsoe, Donovan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper, Michael Vick or Carson Palmer if he'd change places. I guarantee you the answer is yes.
Those quarterbacks, all of whom were awarded contracts of more than $100 million at some point during their careers, have reached a combined two Super Bowl - with no victories.
Manning, Big Ben and Favre? They have totaled four championships. And it probably won't stop there because Roethlisberger, the defending Super Bowl champ, and Manning, winner of the previous championship, figure to win more before they're done.
Still not satisfied? Well, look at it this way: The Giants easily could have allowed Manning to play out this season and get to the contract next year. They could have used the franchise tag in the event negotiations stalled, or they could have shelled out even more at the end of the season, to come up with a market value deal before he would hit free agency.
But as general manager Jerry Reese has done with many key players, including Justin Tuck, Corey Webster, and Chris Snee, he doesn't wait until they reach free agency, when the price invariably goes up.
I think there's a very good chance that Manning will do just that. If it happens, then the Giants will have staved one massive headache by getting the deal done now.
That's precisely what happened with the Steelers before last season, when they gave Roethlisberger an eight-year, $102 million extension. He won his second Super Bowl, and the Steelers didn't have to lose a wink of sleep worrying about how much more they'd have to pay.
Is Roethlisberger the best pure passer in the game? No, he is not. But that doesn't mean he isn't any less valuable because the guy does the one thing you want in a quarterback: He wins.
Same with Eli Manning, who put together one of the greatest playoff runs ever two years ago. He has been to the playoffs in each of his four seasons as the full-time starter, and there is no reason to believe that streak will end soon.
Can he still get better? Absolutely. He needs to be more consistent, needs to find the end zone more often and needs to play like the unstoppable leader he was in those four brilliant playoff games two years ago.
But at 28 and only five years into his career, Manning is still an ascending player and unquestionably can improve., I'd be stunned if he didn't.
That's why the exorbitant price tag shouldn't be so disturbing. Reese may have made a huge investment in his franchise quarterback, but in the end, it will pay off. Especially if there's another Lombardi Trophy or two in his future.