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The cornerstone of the franchise, the 2009 No. 1 overall draft pick Matthew Stafford, is the biggest issue facing the Lions.
Before we get into performance, let’s look at his contract. Spotrac breaks it down, and it is really ugly. In 2013, Stafford is scheduled to make $20.82 million—roughly one-sixth of Detroit’s salary cap.
Also, that contract is second largest in the league. But it’s okay, his salary gets lower in 2014. It drops to $19.32 million, good for fourth in the league. That helps, right?
Now it would be one thing to be paying that money for 2011 Matthew Stafford—he of a 5,000 yard season with 41 touchdowns and a QB rating of 97.2.
It’s another thing entirely to be paying for 2012 Matthew Stafford, who threw 727 times with only 20 touchdowns and a QB rating of 79.8—not to mention Stafford’s injury history on top of that. Yes, he has played all 16 games for the past two years, but his injury woes cannot simply be ignored.
And those 727 passes in one season aren’t helping matters. There’s evidence his arm got tired as the season went on, as his accuracy dipped in the last eight games from 63.6 percent to 56.4 percent, and his interceptions climbed as well.
Stafford playing to his potential can cover up most of the blemishes the Lions have. With him, they can be a playoff team. But with 2012 Stafford, they might be bound for another top-10 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Bottom line, Stafford is what makes the offense, and thus the team, go. He sure would love a running game, but he was able to lead this team to the playoffs without one in 2011. Without him playing at his best, his contract becomes a real abomination, and the Lions lose a franchise QB. This franchise can’t afford either of those missteps.