By Nick Shook
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The Lions were never very concerned about their ability to keep franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford, comfortably stating their confidence in getting a deal done over the summer while admitting it might take the combination to the bank vault to do it.
On Monday, they started gathering the money bags.
Detroit and Stafford agreed to terms on a five-year contract, the team announced Monday evening. The deal is worth $135 million with $92 million in guarantees, making Stafford the highest-paid player in the league, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source informed of the deal. The $27 million-per-year average surpasses a deal signed earlier this summer by Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, which pays the Oakland passer an annual average of $25 million.
It also opens up the possibilities for future larger paydays for the league’s other upper-echelon passers, such as Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan, among others. It’s only a matter of time before we end up seeing a $30 million per year quarterback in the NFL.
Detroit, meanwhile, hands out its second key contract extension of the offseason, though the deal given to safety Glover Quin (two years, $13 million) pales in comparison. While we don’t yet know the breakdown of the contract, Stafford’s existing cap number of $22 million will undoubtedly rise come 2018.
More importantly, though, is Detroit securing the 29-year-old Stafford before the start of the season, eliminating uncertainty and pressure that might have been on the quarterback to produce a career season. The biggest remaining key to Detroit’s success in the short and long term is staying healthy, which hasn’t worked out so well on both sides of the ball. Effectively replacing Taylor Decker (Greg Robinsonhas been a mixed bag so far) and protecting the $135 million man will go a long way for a Lions team that has weapons offensively — Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Eric Ebron, Theo Riddick and the potential of Ameer Abdullah and Kenny Golladay — and has a reliable, strong-armed quarterback under center who has flourished under offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.
Stafford has posted just one negative TD-to-INT ratio, 13-20 in his rookie year of 2009. From 2011-2016, he’s thrown for at least 4,250 yards and 20 touchdowns in each season and has posted a completion percentage of 65 or better in his last two. His passer rating has finished between 84.2 and 97 in each of his last four campaigns. Simply put, his skills have steadied and he shows no sign of slowing down.
Detroit’s issues were long centered on the quarterback position pre-Stafford. Since then, they’ve been everywhere but quarterback (save for an injury-plagued 2010). In a time when locating reliable, above-average quarterback play is like finding one’s soulmate, it’s beyond wise for the Lions to put a ring on Stafford.