Here's an amazing one. Two guys on the Vikings' offensive line were among the top 5 highest paid players in the NFL last year. It's pretty interesting to note that only 5 of the highest paid players last year played on playoff teams. Fourteen of the top 25 highest paid guys were on playoff teams.
The only Eagle in the top 25 highest paid guys in football last year was Shawn Andrews. In 05, no Eagles were among the top 25. In the superbowl year of 04 there were 2(McNabb & Kearse). When you think of all the success the Eagles have had under the Banner/Lurie/Reid braintrust, it's pretty impressive to see they've done so without maxing out their cap on any one or two players. It's not because they've been cheap either. Over the past 4 years the Eagles rank in top half of the league in total payroll. In 04, they had the 2nd highest in the NFL.
It's been about anticipating the market and signing young players early so that when they hit what would be their free agent years, you're getting them at a bargain. Shawn Andrews is the perfect example. In what was only his second full year in the NFL, the Eagles signed Andrews to a 7 year, $40 million deal. He went on to have a year that ended with him starting in his first pro bowl and being called one of the best offensive lineman in the game. This offseason Eric Steinbach, who is a nice player but no Andrews and has never made the pro bowl just got a 7 year $49 million dollar deal. Derrick Dockery, another OG was signed by the Bills for $49 million with $18.5 million in guaranteed money. Dockery has never made a pro bowl. The Cowboys signed o-lineman Leonard Davis to a seven-year, $49.6 million contract with over 18 of it guaranteed. He's never made a pro bowl and was considered by many to be bust in Arizona.
In light of those deals, can you imagine in 2 or 3 years what a young, pro bowl offensive lineman would have commanded on the open market? It's likely to be near twice what Andrews will be making that time. It's conceivable that the Eagles saved themselves $15 to $20 million on that deal.
CB Lito Sheppard, a two time pro bowl corner signed an 8 year $26 million dollar deal with a nearly $9 million bonus with the Eagles. CB Nate Clements, another two time pro bowler just became the highest paid NFL defensive player in history, an eight-year, $80 million contract with $22 million guaranteed. Now, about 16 to 20 mi of that is funny money on the back end... But that said Nate Clements is considered by most as a better player than Lito, but is he $40-$60 million better?
USA Today's NFL salary database