Eric Weddle is now the highest-paid safety in the NFL. But is he worth the money? (Rex Brown/Getty Images)

But few could have anticipated the five-year, $40 million contract the Chargers put on the table — $19 of which is guaranteed — to keep Weddle on their roster. Naturally, Weddle did the smart thing and took the money.

Just how much money is $40 million for a free safety? Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Ryan Clark is happy to clue you in.

Congrats to Eric Weddle! He just signed a deal for what the steelers got @tpolamalu & I for combined! Wow!less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone Favorite Retweet Replyryan clark

Weddle has been a stalwart on San Diego’s improving defense over the last three seasons and led the secondary in tackles last year. He’s started 48 of the team’s last 51 games but only has six career interceptions and has yet to earn a Pro Bowl selection — which begs the question: Is Weddle actually worth $40 million?

Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith seems to think so:

“We think (he’s) going to be swinging upward tremendously. … I’ve seen the growth from year to year, and particularly in the 2010 season. I think he’s going to get smarter, more instinctive, and it grows over time. On top of that, it’s part of the package of the entire defense.”

Here’s a quick comparison to the aforementioned Troy Polamalu — a six-time Pro Bowler in the final year of his five-year $33 million contract. When Polamalu signed that extension in 2007, he became the highest-paid safety in the NFL.

2010: ---------Total tackles--Solo---Int---Pass def---FF--Sack--TD

Eric Weddle---------96--------80-----2-------10--------0------1-----0

Troy Polamalu------63--------49-----7-------11--------1------1-----1

Career Avg: ------Total tackles--Solo---Int---Pass def---FF--Sack--TD

Weddle-(4 seasons)----89.5-------73.8---1.5------7--------0------1----0.5

Polamalu-(8 seasons)--64.4-------49.1---3.4-----8.9-------1-----1----0.25

So, what’s your take?