Detroit Lions quarterback Matt Stafford is a very rich man according to reports, as he has signed a three-year extension to his original rookie contract worth a cool $53 million.
Taken as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Stafford originally signed a six-year deal worth up to $78 million with $41 of that in guarantees. The new extension guarantees $43 of the $53 million on the table, with the remainder presumably being incentive-laden although specific details have yet to be released.
The facts are plain and simple:
Detroit signed Matt Stafford to this extension as much out of fear of the unknown as a reward for his production.
In four season as the Lions starter, Stafford has thrown for 12,807 yards and 80 touchdowns versus 54 interceptions. His quarterback efficiency rating — often seen as a ballpark marker of a quarterback’s overall success in spite of the offensive package in which they operate is a modest 82.8.
Sure, Stafford had his best season statistically as a pro in 2012, throwing for 4,987 yards and 20 touchdowns, but also threw 17 interceptions and completed only 59.8 percent of his passes. Are these numbers worthy of $17.76 million per season on an even-loaded contract?
It’s a matter of perspective, and where the weight is placed.
Stafford has the benefit of the game’s best wideout on the line of scrimmage in Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, whose super-human abilities never fail to amaze and who can turn wobbly, dead-ducks into highlight reel catches.
Also, it’s a testament to an improved Lions offensive line that Stafford was able to appear in all 32 games over the past few seasons after only playing in three during the 2010 campaign, but on the surface his numbers have in fact regressed, even if this regression is by a small measure.
With the mega-deals locked by peers like Aaron Rodgers, the Lions’ hands were forced to ensure the 26-year old Stafford felt respected by the franchise and was ensured Detroit would be his long-term home.
There’s certain to be a lurking fear of the unknown in Detroit as well as the only other quarterbacking option on the roster is former Boise State star Kellen Moore, who, while one of the most successful quarterbacks in college football history has some questionable size and strength given the NFL standard metrics.
Can we assume the Lions’ fear of the unknown if a commitment was not made to Stafford played as much of a role here as his actual, quantitative production?
After all, if you were Jim Schwartz would you be willing to let the Lions’ brass piddle around and increase the possibility Kellen Moore could sooner than later end up behind center.
Well, no, of course not.
Contract extensions aren’t always a simple matter of rewards being issued for a job well done.
The psychological factors which shade the business side of football are just as prevalent given the massive financial resources at stake, and Detroit’s decision to alleviate their fear in extending Matt Stafford is a golden and perfect example.