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Tim Brown: Pack a Punch With FedEx

Some players start out on top. Others need some time to develop into true winners.

This week the Atlanta Falcons signed first-round draft pick Matt Ryan to a record-setting deal. The third overall pick was rewarded with a $72 million, six-year contract. Nearly half of that, or $34.75 million, is guaranteed money. That's some serious bread. The Falcons have a lot riding on Ryan, who is 6-feet-5-inches tall and had 4,507 passing yards last season for Boston College.

They are hoping he can lead the team back to the promised land after a dismal 4-12 last place divisional finish last year. The organization is also banking on the excitement surrounding Ryan to erase the stain of Michael Vick's conviction connected to illegal dog fighting rings. That's a lot of pressure to put on a young player.

Ryan is not alone in his new found wealth. Jake Long, the top overall pick in this year's amateur National Football League (NFL) draft cashed in before he ever stepped on the field in an NFL game. Long and the Miami Dolphins signed a five-year, $57.75 million deal. Many others taken early in the draft are also in line for a payday.

While they will need to perform in order to earn their paychecks, they have a nice head start on and off the field and are can already count themselves as winners (in the financial column). For other players, financial success will be an uphill battle. In order to make the big bucks they will have to not only prove themselves to coaches and general managers, they will also need to get some breaks.
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