Everything you need to know about the NFL and its courtier press can be summed up in a single sentence: Michael Vick's much-heralded "$100 million deal" is not a $100 million deal, and the widely reported "$40 million guaranteed" is in fact neither $40 million nor completely guaranteed.
Andrew Brandt has all the particulars, and his post is worth a read if only to contrast it with, say, this AP/ESPN.com story about Vick's "$100 million deal," which is more or less an exercise in creative writing.
Here's what Brandt has to say about the "sixth" and "final" year of Vick's deal, 2016, when Vick is "set" to "make" "$20 million" (kudos to the Philly Daily News's Les Bowen for pointing this out as well):
This year voids (disappears) with minimum playtime (35%) in any year, making the contract an actual five-year $81 million deal. It appears the year was added on to reach the $100 million figure [...]
To repeat: The sixth year is a fiction. Barring injury, that last bit of the contract will get ripped up in mid-October of this season.
Brandt also notes that the total guarantee is $35.5 million. So how did everyone come up with the $40 million figure? Per Brandt, Vick "can add to the total guarantee of $35.5 million by another $3 million should he win a Super Bowl in 2011 or 2012." That gets us to $38.5 million, and my guess is people merely rounded up from there, apparently unmindful of the fact that an Eagles Super Bowl is the very definition of not guaranteed.
It's obviously in Vick's interest for the deal to be reported this way. It's in his agent's interest, too, not to mention the team's and the NFL's. A hundred million is a very large, very round number. It's a nice number that fairly rings with trumpets and choral music. It's a number that tells a story, never mind that the story is a huge pot of beans.
The "$100 million" alone is doing the work of 50 scurrying publicists—"Vick signs 2nd $100M contract," says ESPN.com's front-page headline, while Good Morning America calls it "Vick's $100 Million Comeback"—and I don't think I'm going too far to suggest it gives a hugely distorted picture of life in the NFL. "Six years, $100 million" evokes nice thoughts about commitment and certainty and none whatsoever about the brutal contingency at the heart of the game and every contract a player will ever sign. An NFL deal, even one for a star quarterback, even a "longterm" one, is basically a stack of one-year contracts. After the first year or two, the team is free to chuck the rest of the stack in the trash whenever it gets tired of the guy. "Six years, $100 million" is a pinky promise and a lot of Monopoly money. "$35.5 million-plus over however many years it takes for someone to obliterate Michael Vick's knee" wouldn't be a very nice story for the NFL or for Vick, but it'd at least have the virtue of being honest.
Vick's Vault [National Football Post]