In NFL it's what have you done lately

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez takes aim before throwing an interception on this play in...

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez takes aim before throwing an interception on this play in the second half of play against the Miami Dolphins during their NFL football game in Miami, Florida, Jan. 1, 2012. (REUTERS/Joe Skipper)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:01 PM ET

Vincent Jackson is going to score big when he signs a contract with San Diego, or one of a half dozen other suitors looking for a catch-all wideout. Drew Brees will get his millions and nobody is going to have to hold a community chest raffle for Peyton Manning.

But for the ordinary grunts, life in the NFL can be full of insecurities. Here today, gone tomorrow.

Every off-season, agents and clubs announce signings of contracts adding up to imponderable sums. And, in some cases, the key word here is “imponderable”.

What you see, is not always what they get. And, even winning a Super Bowl doesn’t necessarily guarantee a big pay day.

Signing a multi-year deal doesn’t necessarily mean a player is guaranteed that he won’t be gone tomorrow. Take the case of Chargers’ left tackle Marcus McNeill. He signed what was supposed to be a six-year, $48.98 million deal in 2010 to protect Philip Rivers’ back.

Does a good job, too. Trouble is, he’s not always been able to be on the job.

Reality is, he probably will be waived in March after being carted off the field last November with his second serious neck injury since 2009. McNeill needs medical clearance by March 15 to guarantee his $10.5 million salary, and San Diego doctors aren’t likely to do that.

So, good-bye Marcus. Good-bye six-year contract.

Now, he’s already made a pot of cash and he’s good enough when healthy that some other team is likely to take a chance. But, the point is, this is the ultimate “What have you done for us lately” profession.

It’s difficult to blame the Chargers. Waiving McNeill would free up $10 million in cap space. So, sentimentality aside, it makes sense.

But, it is an example of why players rarely run out and buy the local mansion when they sign with a team. Chances are they won’t be there long enough to watch the paint dry on the kitchen walls.

Chargers linebacker Linebacker Takeo Spikes, due almost $3 million next year, is also a candidate for release. In New York, Giants’ tight end Jake Ballard could have reasonably expected this to be a windfall off-season. Not only has he maintained his reputation as a reliable blocker but he became a pass-catching threat. Ballard had 604 yards with four TDs and as a restricted free agent on a Super Bowl team he had everything going for him. Thanks for the long-term deal — hello, Park Avenue.

But a torn ACL in the Super Bowl may have changed all that. It will cost him money. The only unknown is how much it will cost.

Across town, the Jets find themselves in a curious situation with Santonio Holmes and Mark Sanchez. Holmes basically believes Sanchez couldn’t quarterback the Peanuts Gang. Not good for chemistry. Head coach Rex Ryan said a couple of weeks ago that Sanchez was his quarterback now, and next season. Speculation was, Holmes might be history and his contract for 2013 wasn’t guaranteed if the club cut him before Wednesday.

They didn’t. As a result, the Jets are on the hook for $15 million even if they now let Holmes go. And, if they don’t, where does that leave Sanchez?

Behind a guy named Peyton? Or, throwing to a guy who doesn’t believe in him? Either way, it’s uncomfortable. Of course, a lot of guys will be feeling that way for the next few weeks, so he’s going to have plenty of company.

SPEAKING OF MANNING

There’s plenty of talk around the NFL that Peyton is bound for Washington. Of course, none of that talk is coming from Peytonville.

The Redskins could do worse. In fact, they have. They had Donovan McNabb, after all. Right Rex Grossman?

This team hasn’t had a decent quarterback since Mike Shanahan was knee-high to Sonny Jurgensen. So, Peyton Manning wouldn’t seem a bad gamble.

But Joe Theismann, former Redskins’ quarterback and Washington booster, doesn’t believe it would be a happy marriage. “It’s not a good idea, it’s not a bad idea — it’s a horrific idea,” he told a radio station. ”It would be one of the poorest things that we could do as a franchise. Are we gonna go find another guy for just a couple of years again? Haven’t we done this before? Haven’t we seen this act before? And by the way, if you get Peyton Manning, don’t you have a concern about protecting him? Don’t you have a concern about who he throws the football to? ... We’re tired of looking for stop gaps.”

Maybe. But a stop gap at quarterback is still better than, well ... a gap. Which is what they’re looking at most games now.

QUICK HITS

The Cardinals hired former Colts quarterbacks coach Frank Reich Wednesday as their wide receiver coach ... Free agent Chad Pennington is leaning toward retirement rather than risk further damage to a shoulder that has been repaired four times. “It doesn’t make sense for me to come back and try to play,” said Pennington, who also tore the ACL in his knee last year. He’s 36. “I don’t want to look a coach in the eye and say, ‘You can count on me,’ and then I go out there and have something happen and then he can’t count on my body.” ... The Eagles are expected to pursue free agent Plaxico Burress this off-season to improve their red-zone offence ... Speculation is they’ll also shop DeSean Jackson around the league after placing the franchise tag on the free agent later this month.


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