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Making the grade
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Here's something I found kind of alarming.

The other day when I was at Wal-Mart I noticed that kids and parents were already doing back-to-school shopping.

The alarming part isn't that they were shopping at Wal-Mart (well, maybe that's a little alarming). Or even that I was shopping at Wal-Mart (again, kind of troubling).

The thing that baffled me most is that summer is almost over.

I guess for a 23-year-old college graduate with no kids, that's not such a big deal. Summer doesn't really exist in the real world aside from having the AC on full blast and needing to wear sunblock on a more consistent basis (I'm way too young to be this jaded ... what's happening to me?).

But the thought of going back to school does make me a little nostalgic. So since I don't get graded anymore, let's grade some important NFL deals that happened this offseason.

Were these six QBs deserving of their big paydays? Time to see who made the honor roll.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots (three years, $27 million): Here's a line from the movie Ted:

(While watching Flash Gordon)

John: This is the American fantasy right here. A professional NFL player is called upon to save the world.

Ted: Yeah, Tom Brady could do that.

John: Tom Brady COULD do that!

As a society, this is the perception we have of Brady. And for once, society is not wrong.

Theoretically, the Patriots could hand Brady a blank check, tell him to put any amount of money he wants on it, and it would still be a good deal because it's Tom Brady.

So when the Pats announced that they had re-signed Brady for a mere $9 million a year, I almost lost my mind.

Keep in mind that Jay Cutler, the living embodiment of mediocrity, makes only half a million less than that.

This is highway robbery without the highway. So basically, it's just robbery.

So how is this deal not an A++?

Simple. The whole point of Brady taking a pay cut was to free up enough cap space to keep Wes Welker.

Welker plays for the Broncos now so clearly that plan didn't work.

But hey, I'm sure Brady's fine with making less money and playing for a worse team. Who wouldn't be?

Grade: B

Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (six years, $120.6 million): As you probably know, Flacco won the Super Bowl last season.

You know what else he won?

The lottery.

Twenty million a year for a guy who can't even get his dad to say good things about him ("Joe is dull")?

Let's face it. If Jacoby Jones doesn't make that catch, Flacco is mopping floors at a Waffle House (or selling three-ring binders at Wal-Mart).

Instead, he's the third-richest QB in NFL history.

As vanilla as Flacco may be, at least the Ravens know what they're getting out of him. His yardage totals have been pretty much the same for the past four seasons (high of 3,817 yards, low of 3,610). He's also been excellent in the playoffs (9-4 record) and he's never had to deal with any serious injuries (80 consecutive games played).

Baltimore had to do something big after winning the Super Bowl so it's understandable why they felt the need to overpay Flacco. It's not the greatest deal but we've seen a lot worse.

Grade: B-

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (five years, $110 million): Rodgers is the best quarterback in the league right now and it really isn't that close (84 TD, 114.9 QB rating since 2011). As long as he's around, the Packers will always have a chance to win the Super Bowl.

Rodgers is the highest paid quarterback ever and that's the way it should be. Unless Brett Favre comes out of hiding and decides to sabotage the Packers (which he's been known to do), this looks like a pretty safe investment.

Grade: A

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (six years, $108 million): The kindest word I can use to describe this would be "ill-advised."

Don't get me wrong. Romo has good numbers. His career quarterback rating (95.6) is only a tick below Tom Brady's (96.6). The difference is that Brady has won three rings and Romo has just one playoff victory in eight seasons. In fact, the Cowboys haven't even had a winning season since 2009.

The thing that puzzles me the most about this deal is that Romo is already 33. Plus, he's coming off back surgery, which isn't a great sign for a guy you're counting on to be the face of the team for the next six years.

Maybe Jerry Jones should be working at Wal-Mart.

Grade: C-

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (five years, $103.75 million): Matty Ice sounds like something you'd drink at a Falcons tailgate but it's actually the name of the NFL's second-highest paid quarterback.

Ryan was outstanding last season, leading the league in completion percentage while distributing a career-high 32 touchdown passes. He's got good pieces around him and the wide receiver duo of Roddy White and Julio Jones (combined 2,549 receiving yards and 17 TD last season) should be around for a long time.

The Boston College product is still fairly young (28) and the Falcons are a team that seems to be trending in the right direction. Ryan is only going to get better and while he certainly won't be a bargain at just under $21 million a season, Atlanta needed to lock him up long-term.

Grade: B+

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (three years, $53 million): If this deal had gone down a year earlier, I might have been on board with it. Stafford was spectacular in 2011, throwing for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdown passes while leading the Lions to the postseason for the first time in a decade.

But after the year Stafford had in 2012, there's no way I would have given him $53 million. No quarterback in football regressed more dramatically than Stafford did in 2012. Not only did his touchdown total slip from 41 to 20 (51.2 percent decrease) but his QB rating fell by more than 17 points, the steepest drop of any quarterback in the league last season.

And he really didn't have a good excuse. Sure, the Lions' running game was in shambles (10th fewest yards in the league) but Calvin Johnson was still brilliant (NFL record receiving 1,964 yards) and the offensive line only allowed 29 sacks (ninth-fewest in the league).

The good news is Stafford is only 25 so he still has plenty of time to turn things around. If he doesn't pan out, at least the Lions will only have to suffer through three years of misery instead of six like Cowboys fans.

Grade: C

The season starts in 40 days. I got the chips ... who's bringing the Matty Ice?




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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