Forty mil for a guy who, this time last season, was just ahead of Mike Kafka?

Yep. Forty million, guaranteed, for a quarterback who played well in most games, and amazingly in a handful over the past 4 years. Two of those years were spent out of football, mostly in Leavenworth.

All that money to a guy who is one brush from the law, one more strike from NFL banishment. Roger Goodell is umpiring.

Michael Vick got $40 million, guaranteed, as part of the 6-year, $100 million contract extension he signed with the Eagles on Monday night.

The deal might be worth more like $80 million over 5 years, with $35.5 million guaranteed.

Either way, he is worth every nickel.

Time, and his specious offensive line, will tell. Maybe he will learn to beat blitzes. Maybe he will learn to slide when he scrambles and tuck when the sackers collapse the pocket around him.

Irrefutably, he is the most gifted quarterback in the history of the league. He is the NFL's Michael Jordan, without the corporate cachet. These days, unlike his first incarnation in Atlanta, he works and practices and talks like that other Mike.

And, so, he is a wise investment.

Vick's deal is the latest in a South Philly spending binge that has, in the past few years, secured the services of athletes both deserving and undeserving. The $20 million sources say he will make this year is commensurate with the Phillies' two pillars - athletes who, besides Vick, are the only two players in town worth their money, without argument.

Last spring, the Phillies gave charismatic slugger Ryan Howard $125 million over 5 years. Howard is the foundation of the franchise, and has been since 2006: 191 straight sellouts? They're on his shoulders. He cannot be paid enough.

The Phils in late 2009 traded for Roy Halladay and promptly locked him up through 2013, 3 years and $60 million guaranteed, with a vesting option for another year and $20 million. Halladay already had a Cy Young Award. He was the best pitcher in baseball. He was Tom Brady, Peyton Manning.

He won another Cy Young last season in Philadelphia.

This season, Halladay is competing for a third Cy . . . with Cliff Lee, the lefthanded Bank-buster whom the Phillies promised in December $120 million over 5 years. Lee is a Cy Young winner and was a playoff ace for the Phillies in 2009.

But the Phillies made it clear he wasn't of Halladay's ilk. For one thing, they traded Lee upon acquiring Halladay. Then, this year, they made Halladay the Opening Day starter.

Lee is on his second run of dominant pitching this season - but that's what his is, what he has always been. Streaky. He was not better than decent for the first 2 months this season. He was poor in July. For $25 million per, streaky does not equal value.

So, the Phillies are 2-for-3.

How about the Flyers?

No doubt, the 7-year, $35 million deal they handed Chris Pronger in 2009 paid off, both during their playoff run in 2009-2010 and in the character infusion that accompanied Pronger, despite his lingering injury issues. The Flyers knew injuries would be a factor for a 34-year-old player. If he never plays again, the change of culture in the dressing room paid for his services.

The Flyers saw the error of their previous payroll impetuosity when they traded overpaid young brooders Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. They wisely reinvested their money in a goalie (finally) this summer, trading for and inking top-tier goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to a 9-year, $51 million deal.

They have now erred again. Yesterday, they gave 22-year-old James van Riemsdyk 6 years and $25.5 million on the strength of a few strong months last season and two strong playoff series. It is a mistake - minor, but still . . .

No one at Broad and Pattison has mussed their payroll pants like the Sixers, but, at least, the recent moves reek less.

Clearly, Elton Brand's 5-year, $82 million deal coming off an injured left Achilles' tendon in 2008 was ill-conceived. He wasn't healthy enough to earn that money until midway through last season, his third.

However, teammate (and talk-radio punching bag) Andre Iguodala earned every cent of his money. Like Brand, Iguodala signed in 2008, but his was an extension, for 6 years and $80 million. No, he hasn't been a franchise player . . . but he wasn't paid as such (Kobe makes $25 million a year). Iguodala has been the team's best player, its best defender, its conscience and its spokesman. He has played hurt and he has led, without flinching.

All for about $12.3 million last season, and, assuming there is a next season, $13.5 million - about $2.4 million less than Brand made last year.

The Eagles, meanwhile, have dealt hit after hit. They will pay cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, signed last month, a little less than Iguodala gets this year. Left tackle Jason Peters, signed in 2009, is averaging about the same for the first 3 years of his deal.

Peters has been named to the last four Pro Bowls; Asomugha has been to the last three, with the Raiders.

Vick joined them there this past season.

He will be a fixture at the event for a decade.

Forty million bucks?

A bargain.