EDIT 11/7/16: This was originally written before the season & before Stafford started to play like an MVP candidate, however, the breakdown of what it would cost to keep him is still accurate & relevant, especially with the report he may or may not be seeking $25 million per season on an extension.
Matthew Stafford takes a lot of criticism in Detroit.
From the first moment the Lions drafted the Georgia QB 1st overall in the 2009 entry draft Matthew Stafford has been under the fans and media microscope. Expected to be the QB to bring a playoff win to the barren franchise (you wanted him to bring a Super Bowl to the Lions? lets start by winning a playoff game first) Stafford was behind the 8 ball before he ever threw a pass for the Lions.
After a slow start due to injuries & a “china doll” perception, Stafford has started every game for this team over the past 5 seasons, with mixed results to say the least. The Lions have made 2 playoff appearances, both losses, in the only two winning seasons since he was drafted, Stafford has failed to establish himself as one of the top QBs in the NFL & what fans expected from a #1 overall draft pick.
After going to the playoffs in 2011 & throwing for nearly 5000 yards in back to back seasons, the Lions restructured Stafford’s rookie contract & added three additional years to it, running through the 2017 season. This contract restructuring/extension made Stafford as the 2 highest paid QB (by cap hit) in the NFL.
This added pressure to Stafford from the fans and media again, which according to most, he has failed to live up to, again. Stafford is a lightning rod for criticism in Detroit & with out Calvin Johnson to throw to in 2016, this is Stafford’s opportunity to prove himself.
However, after a strong finish in 2015 (69% completion, 20 TDs, just 4 INT int he final 9 games) and embarking on a full season under Jim Bob Cooter’s offense that he succeeded in, puts the Lions in a very tough spot.
After being the 2nd highest paid QB in 2013, Stafford is now the 6th highest paid QB according to his Salary Cap number, but in terms of actual dollars paid, he is 19th, 1 spot below Tyrod Taylor of the Buffalo Bills, after his recent extension.
Matthew Stafford is a very streaky QB that has had his ups & downs, he has taken the Lions to the playoffs twice in 7 years (not good enough). He has thrown for over 5000 yards, has made a Pro Bowl, but he also has lost a lot of games for the Lions.
Stafford needed to be better in the 2014 season when they had a top rated NFL Defense & he couldn’t manage the game from the offensive side & cost them a chance at winning the division & making it anywhere in the playoffs.
But, Kirk Cousins, who is less reliable & proven than Stafford, is playing the 2016 season on a 1 year $19.5M franchise tag, which more that Stafford makes.
Sam Bradford, who has a larger injury history than Stafford and is a lesser QB than Stafford, just signed a 2 year, $35M contract, just a bit less than Stafford makes.
The previously mentioned Tyrod Taylor’s extension in Buffalo also impacts Stafford’s future.
New GM Bob Quinn has a couple big decisions coming his way, first, Jim Caldwell, if the Lions don’t start the year winning a lot, how quickly he fire him & the, what to do with Matthew Stafford’s contract?
With the ability to leave after the 2017 season, Stafford is in a position to once again, become one of the highest paid QBs in the league & eat up a large chunk of the Lions salary cap.
With a strong statistical season in an offense designed to get quick completions, his numbers can get inflated & force the contract issue on Quinn, even with out a trip to the playoffs or more than 7 wins.
For Lions fans, the idea of extending Matthew Stafford again, keeping him around for another 7 years is a tough pill to swallow. Many do not believe this team is going to win while Stafford is captaining the ship, despite his inflated statistical numbers.
But, the other side is not much better. In an NFL that gives out big contracts to QBs like Sam Bradford & Tyrod Taylor, lesser & unproven QBs, having a proven veteran, even one as streaky as Stafford, traversing a season or two with out some one steady under center is a route that most GMs & franchises will not go.
Ultimately what will happen is that Matthew Stafford will sign a contract extension with the Lions, either during or just after the 2016 season. The contract will be in the neighborhood of a 4 year extension worth about $22-24MM per year & about 2/3s of the total money will be guaranteed (for example: 4yr/$95MM, $60MM guaranteed).
After this contract is signed, no matter the record at the time (or of the previous season) some fans will erupt with anger (unless the Lions have just won a Super Bowl…so its guaranteed, some with erupt with anger) and some will understand that is just the landscape of today’s NFL.
This is an ideal situation for Matthew Stafford and only Matthew Stafford. He happens to be playing well enough to keep getting paid as a top QB & in today’s market, that is worth a lot of money. No matter your opinion of Stafford, the Lions would be foolish to let him go or trade him and unless some sort of catastrophic injury occurs, he will be leading the Lions for many more years.
So, in the end, what I’m saying here is: get prepared for a Matthew Stafford contract extension, understand it is going to sound like an outrageous amount of money for a QB with a career record of 42-51 (0-2 playoffs) and it is. But, for the Lions & GM Bob Quinn, it is the move they are going to make & it probably is the correct one, even as frustrating as Stafford can be on the field.