What Does Matthew Stafford's Lucrative Extension Mean for the Detroit Lions?
It's been a good year to be a quarterback in the NFL.
Mega-deal to throw to Megatron: Lions and Matthew Stafford agree on 3-year, $53 million extension ($43M guaranteed). via @AdamSchefter— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 9, 2013
The annual compensation on the extension comes in slightly less than the $18 million per year that Romo got, but that $43 million in guaranteed money more than makes up for it.
As Bleacher Report's own Ian Kenyon relays, that places Stafford in some rarefied air when it comes to the bank accounts of NFL players:
Matthew Stafford may end up being the highest paid NFL player ever by the time he retires. His rookie deal + this extension + anything after— Ian Kenyon (@IanKenyonNFL) July 9, 2013
However, even more important than Stafford's bottom line (unless you're Stafford, his agent or the guy about to sell a boat to both of them) is the effect that Stafford's new deal has on the Lions as a football team.
After an injury-plagued start to his NFL career, Stafford exploded in his third NFL season, topping 5,000 passing yards, tossing 41 scoring strikes and leading the Lions to their first playoff berth in a dozen years.
In fact, from a statistical standpoint, Stafford's numbers over that stretch compare favorably to the quarterbacks who recently inked new deals, with the exception of Rodgers:
And let's be honest, just about everyone's numbers look bad compared to Aaron Rodgers.
However, when you compare the win totals for those four passers over the past two years, things aren't as favorable for Stafford:
Granted, football is a team sport, so all of the blame for the Lions' four-win 2012 season can't be laid at Stafford's feet, nor can his alarmingly poor record against so-called "good" teams:
With that said, though, it also can't be denied that Stafford backslid last year. Stafford's touchdown passes dropped by over 50 percent from 2011 to 2012. His interceptions stayed relatively level, but Stafford's passer rating dropped by nearly 20 points.
According to ESPN's Ron Jaworski (via the Detroit Free Press), many of Stafford's issues lie with a common criticism of the former Georgia standout over the years...poor mechanics:
What stood out studying Stafford was he was not as efficient under center as he was in the shotgun. He seemed to struggle to read coverage as effectively. Too many forced throws. Overall, he just threw too many passes with poor balance and bad footwork, with a tendency to fall away from the throws.
There is absolutely no question that Stafford is a very special arm talent. There are not many that throw it like he does. He has a chance to be a top-10 quarterback. The Lions may disagree, but he needs more consistent mechanics to play at a higher level week in and week out.
Even if Jaworski's points are all spot-on, there are a few reasons why this is a good deal for the Lions.
First, the simple fact is that 5,000-yard quarterbacks most definitely do not grow on trees. There are only a handful of quarterbacks in the National Football League with "wow" arms. Matthew Stafford is one of them, bad mechanics or not.
Second, for all of the perceived flaws in Stafford's game, he's still only 25 years old.
A lot of people forget how young Stafford really is. He's younger than Kaepernick and only 9 months older than Russell Wilson.— Ian Kenyon (@IanKenyonNFL) July 9, 2013
Stafford has already thrown for nearly 13,000 yards and 80 touchdowns, and he hasn't even hit the prime of his career yet.
Finally, years of bad Lions teams led to several high draft picks. Those picks occurred under the old collective bargaining agreement and resulted in fat rookie contracts for players like Stafford and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Those contracts have left the Lions scrambling to generate cap space over the past couple of years. We don't yet know exactly how Stafford's extension is structured, but it's all but certain that Detroit used this opportunity to generate some badly needed short-term cap space.
That cap space will come in handy when it's time for the Lions to re-up Suh next year.
Any way you slice it, the Lions were wise to lock Stafford up. Sure, it's spendy, but that's the price of doing business where quarterbacks are concerned.
So, for fans of the Honolulu Blue, it's smiles all around. Tuesday was a good day.
Or a great day...if you're a boat salesman.
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