By Will Burchfield
Matthew Stafford indicated he isn’t interested in giving the Lions a discount on his next contract, and it doesn’t look like he’ll have to accept one.
Team president Rod Wood told ESPN on Tuesday that he’s willing to make Stafford the NFL’s highest-paid player to keep him in Detroit.
The two parties have been working on an extension throughout the off-season.
“It’s going to be whatever it takes, I think, to make it happen from both sides, and whether he becomes the highest-paid or not, it’ll be a short-lived designation because, as [general manager] Bob [Quinn] said, and I think it’s true, if you’re in the top whatever of quarterbacks, when your time comes up, your time comes up and then somebody else’s time comes up, and they become the highest-[paid player].
“It’s a premium position, and you need to have a very, very good player at that position to be credible and be competitive, and I think we do have that, and we’re working on getting a deal done.”
Andrew Luck is the NFL’s highest-paid player at the moment with an average annual salary of $24.5 million. Given Stafford’s comparable statistics, the league’s steadily rising salary cap and the soaring market rate for high-level QB play, it’s widely believed that he’ll surpass Luck in terms of yearly salary with his next deal.
Stafford, 29, is entering the final year of a $53 million extension he signed in 2013. He’s set to make $16.5 million in 2017.
Over the weekend, Lions general manager Bob Quinn said he’s “confident” the team will ink Stafford to an extension before the start of the upcoming season.
“We’re working towards that and hopefully we have some news later in the summer,” Quinn told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Stafford isn’t the only quarterback in line for a major payday at the moment. Both Kirk Cousins and Derek Carr are seeking potentially record-setting extensions. Cousins and the Redskins have until the July 17 franchise-tag signing deadline to work out a new deal, while Carr has set the start of training camp as his deadline for landing a new contract with the Raiders.
Said Stafford during minicamp last week, “I’m not too worried about what those guys do. I’m just worried about trying to get better out here. That’s pretty much all I can say. This time of year to me is football time. I’m out here playing football, trying to get better to help this team win.”
Stafford is coming off a season in which he garnered MVP consideration before suffering a finger injury in December. He threw for over 4,300 yards, completed over 65 percent of his passes and finished with 24 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions.
The former No. 1 overall pick has led the Lions to the playoffs in two of the past three seasons, but has yet to win a postseason game in his career.
The Lions have been talking with Stafford’s agent, Tom Condon, for a few months now. Stafford stays on the outside of those discussions – “They’re people are talking to my people,” is how he usually puts it – but suggested in April he’s not interested in taking a discount to help the Lions potentially build a better team.
“Every year, teams find ways to put good teams around good quarterbacks. You see it every year. I’m not too worried about that,” he said. “I know that the salary cap and all that kind of stuff is malleable as you want it to be. I think you just go and try and make a good decision for not only the player, but the team.”
Judging by Wood’s comments, Stafford shouldn’t have to worry.