The Matthew Stafford Contract Extension Highlights A Major Problem With the NFL

Old AccountSenior Writer IJuly 9, 2013

June 11, 2013; Allen Park, MI, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) during mini camp at Lions training facility. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions and quarterback Matthew Stafford struck a major extension Tuesday. ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter reports the 25-year-old quarterback has received a three year, $53 million extension with $41.5 million guaranteed. The Lions extension of Stafford highlights a concern for NFL franchises.

The league's most important position continues to produce record breaking salaries and are ultimately preventing teams from keeping the plethora of talent at other positions. 

Granted, the Lions extended Stafford to save some extra money now and have the ability to renegotiate a few years down the line, as CBSSports' Will Brinson suggests. From a financial standpoint, one could understand the reasoning for the organization giving Stafford this extension now.

Yet, Stafford's contract now rivals the puzzling $108 million deal that Romo received this offseason from the Cowboys. And what have they done to show for it?

Romo is now one of the league's higher payed quarterbacks despite winning one playoff game in eight seasons with previous rosters that seem talented enough on paper to compete for championships.

Stafford battled injuries early on in his career and had a terrific season in 2011, as he led the Lions back to the postseason. Though, one tends to overlook that he has played alongside the best receiver in football during that period of time in Calvin Johnson, who has combined for nearly 4000 yards and 21 touchdowns the past two seasons.   

Joe Flacco had a tremendous playoff run this past season and received a six year, $120 million contract. While the deal favors the Ravens in the short term, they will eventually need to reconstruct the deal around 2016. What if Flacco leads the Ravens to another championship over that time span? He will set himself up to receive another lucrative contract in his late 30s.

Although these three quarterbacks don't measure up equal to each other in terms of winning, they all have a common theme: They are hot commodities in a league that is now quarterback driven. They do not compare to arguably the best quarterback in Aaron Rodgers in terms of production, but the boat-loaded contracts appear to say otherwise.

The extensions handed out this offseason are only beginning. Matt Ryan has displayed a model of consistency with the Falcons, who were a few executed plays away from representing the NFC in last year's Super Bowl.

Could Ryan go against the trend by signing a franchise happy deal that can allow the organization to keep other elite players intact? Or are the Falcons destined to face their struggles with keeping a championship caliber team together?

Sports Illustrated columnist Andrew Brandt notes how the 49ers and Seahawks are in a fortunate position, as quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson have very friendly contracts due to the rookie wage scale that was implemented.

However, the current CBA in place plays a role in the high-priced contracts for quarterbacks. With teams managing to avoid paying high salaries to unproven rookies, the cash can be saved for franchises' to offer these record breaking deals to their respective signal callers.

Kaepernick will be the next candidate to secure the contract extension after next season. If the 49ers were to win a championship with him at the helm, the franchise will face questions as to whether or not they could pay both Kaepernick and Aldon Smith, who will be eventually looking for a raise.

Quite frankly, it would be a shocking development if Kaepernick received a contract that did not make him the highest player among the two. Aldon Smith is one of the game's premier pass rushers, but he is unlikely to change the notion that the quarterback always wins in today's league.

Ultimately, the extravagant contracts given to the wave of young quarterbacks provide two disturbing thoughts in terms of the NFL landscape.

As the record breaking deals for quarterbacks continue to grow, the other elite position players in the league are not going to receive the same opportunity to be paid for their actual value. This is especially true for championship contending teams that have quarterbacks and have less room for error when signing their core players to new contracts.

But lost in all of these new contracts given out is the reality that the game's true elite quarterbacks may provide success for decades and not stand out financially. In terms of these contracts, Tony Romo is worth as much as Aaron Rodgers. Joe Flacco is worth as much, if not more, than Tom Brady.

It's an unfair situation, but it's one that will continue to change the landscape of the league for years to come.

Matt Miselis is a NFL columnist for BleacherReport. Follow him on twitter@MattMiselisNFL


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