By Larry Lage
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Matthew Stafford stands to be wealthier than he already is, possibly very soon.
His agent, Tom Condon, and the Detroit Lions are negotiating terms of a contract that may make the quarterback the NFL’s highest-paid player.
Stafford insisted he hasn’t decided if he’ll allow talks to continue into the season, adding he doesn’t know when or if the call will be made to stop negotiations.
“I had no expectations going into it,” Stafford said Monday. “So, I’m doing myself and our team a disservice if that’s what I’m worried about. I truly am letting the guys upstairs here, and my agent, hash it all out. And, I’m just trying to be as good a football player as I can be and help our team.”
Stafford, entering the last season of his $53 million, three-year contract, might start the ninth season of his career with a deal richer than the $125 million, five-year extension the Oakland Raiders gave quarterback Derek Carr two months ago.
Drafted No. 1 overall by Detroit in 2009, Stafford helped the Lions reach the playoffs last season for the third time in six seasons. He throws with a lot of zip and power, squeezing passes into tight windows and sending spirals deep down the field with one of the strongest arms in the league.
“I think I got the fastballs down,” Stafford said. “Pretty good at those. Made a living doing those for a long time.”
He and his teammates, though, have failed to do enough to lead the Lions to a postseason victory for the first time since the 1991 season.
Stafford is trying to do his part to change that, working with a QB guru for the first time during the offseason. Stafford hasn’t said whom he trained with or what he worked on, but seemed to follow the path of Tom Brady, Drew Brees and others to connect with Tom House and 3DQB in California.
While Stafford has been secretive about the details, focusing on his touch throws appears to be one of his goals after reviewing last season’s passes.
“When you look at the tape, ‘Hey, there’s a big play to be had there if you could just throw it over this guy and throw it around this guy,” he said. “I just studied all that kind of stuff.”
It looks as if it might’ve worked. In limited chances to play in preseason games against the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts, safety Glover Quin noticed Stafford connecting on some crisp, crossing routes to teammates. In exhibition games and practices, receiver Golden Tate has seen the results of Stafford’s offseason efforts.
“He’s really been dropping some passes in the bucket, some that either we catch or no one catches,” Tate said. “When you can be a quarterback and make those types of plays, that’s special. Every day, every year Matt’s getting better and always will.”
Despite the retirement of star receiver Calvin Johnson and a lackluster running game last season, Stafford was having one of his best years until a finger injury and stiffer competition stunted his and the team’s success.
Results will not matter until Week 1 at home against Arizona, but Stafford is looking forward to the opportunity to play the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots on Friday night in Ford Field. It will be the third preseason game for both teams and that’s traditionally the exhibition that most closely resembles a game that counts.
“Really good defense last year; No. 1 against the pass, No. 1 in scoring,” Stafford said. “Really a good test for us as well. Obviously, our defense will have their hands full with the quarterback like Tom (Brady) and that offensive group and some of the weapons that they’ve added.”
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