Darrius Heyward-Bey Has 21 Million Reasons to Improve in 2010

What will Al Davis get for $21-million in 2010? Hopefully he’ll get more than 9 catches, 1 touchdown and fewer drops out of Darrius Heyward-Bey.

Sports Illustrated compiled the Fortunate 50, a raking of the 50 highest paid athletes in 2010. Surprisingly enough, DHB ranks 28th, one spot ahead of Jeff Gordon and just behind Paul Pierce.

Heyward-Bey’s salary of $21.4-million in 2010 also makes him the highest paid athlete in the Bay Area – eat your checkbook Barry Zito – and the 8th highest paid player in the NFL. The combinations of clever accounting and the NFL going sans salary cap in 2010 have created the perfect storm for Hey-Bey to have one heck of a pay day.

Despite being handed the starting job from day one and being given every opportunity to flourish, Heyward-Bey was a huge disappointment as a rookie. Having to use that 4.30 speed to chase wayward balls thrown by JaMarcus Russell certainly didn’t help either.

To his credit, DHB has rededicated himself during the offseason. Call him the anti-JaMarcus.

Known for his stellar work ethic in college, Darrius is doing all he can to earn every penny of that $21-million. During OTA’s, DHB drew high praise for his improved play. How that translates to Sundays in the fall remains to be seen.

Even going as far as to switch his jersey numbers, Heyward-Bey is sending a clear message that things will be different during his sophomore season.

Still, one can’t help but wonder how an unproven player with fewer catches than a blind fisherman can collect $20-mil. Chalk that one up to the NFL and its ridiculous policy of allowing rookies to dictate negotiations.

Chances are it will be almost impossible for Hey-Bey to live up to a salary that makes LeBron James blush. Short of setting NFL records in every receiving category and leading the Raiders back to the Super Bowl, there’s nothing DHB can do to quiet the talk that will surely come up whenever his name is mentioned.

However, improving his numbers from those of a practice squad fill-in to a legit second option in the passing game would be a step in the right direction. More importantly is to help the Raiders to get back to playing respectable football.

Nope, there’s pretty much nothing Darrius Heyward-Bey can do to justify collecting more coin than Nnamdi Asomugha in 2010. So he might as well concentrate on making opposing fans hate him for what he does to their team on the field as opposed to how much scratch he takes home off of it.

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