Matthew Stafford is on the last year of his three year 53 million dollar extension (41.5 million guaranteed) he signed with the Lions prior to the 2013 season. It’s time to extend Stafford again this offseason and the current price tag for starting caliber quarterbacks has risen drastically in the league along with the salary cap. Let’s take a look at what kind of deal Stafford should get.
Stafford Previous Deals
Stafford had decent sized but not monumental cap hits the first two years of the extension as the signing bonus on the extension was combined with the previous rookie deal while moving around base salaries. The cap hits the first two years of the extension in 2013 and 2014 were actually lower than what his cap hit would have been on the old CBA deal and exactly the same for what it would have been in 2015. The Lions created cap space with his 2013 extension for 2013 and 2014 when the cap was still tight.
The first year of the extension was also a modest 17 million cap hit for 2015. The final two years when the cap rose is when Stafford earned bigger salaries and had a 22.5 million cap hit in 2016 (5th highest for QBs) and 22 million cap hit in 2017 (6th highest for QBs).
Stafford earned 17.6 million per season while some of the signing bonus was spread over five years and not three seasons. A 17.6 million average for Stafford per season is currently 18th in average per season for all quarterbacks. Stafford is underpaid in average per season at 17.6 million season but has the correct cap hit size at 5th/6thth most in the league for 2016 and 2017. The cap hits are always higher at the tail end of contracts.
Stafford has played like a top 6 QB even though his supporting cast hasn’t allowed his stats to shine every year. However, Stafford has thrown 44 TDs and 14 interceptions with Jim Bob Cooter as OC and was shining bright until a late season finger injury derailed him in 2016 down the stretch.
Most recent deals
The most recent deals for QBs have been over 24 million on average per season to Andrew Luck, Carson Palmer and Drew Brees. The cap has risen since those deals and the next amount for a good starting QB in his prime should be around 25-26 million per season. Stafford should expect to get that amount per season this summer.
Stafford is 29 years old for the 2017 season and should get a hefty pay day with a big bonus and a lot of guaranteed money. This new deal could actually lower his 22 million dollar cap hit which the Lions can carry over for cap space next offseason (provides more for new Ansah deal or Ansah franchise tag in 2018). Andrew Luck received a 44 million guaranteed money deal including 32 million signing bonus. Expect Stafford’s contract to eclipse those numbers.
Potential Contract 5 years 125 million with 56 million guaranteed
A five year 125 million dollar contract should be in play for Stafford (25 per) with maybe 56 million guaranteed and a 35 million dollar signing bonus. Option bonuses are also possible which would kick in year 2 or large roster bonuses if the Lions won’t to go that route for guaranteed money. Quinn loves to use incentives to add value to contracts too. Here is a possible break down for the base and signing bonus. This amount includes the 125 million extension amount and the 16.5 million in base salary Stafford is owed for 2017.
2017 Base Salary 7 million (guaranteed) + 5.5 old signing bonus+7 million new signing bonus=19.5 million cap hit for 2017. Lions would garner and carryover extra 2.5 million in space for 2018.
2018 Base Salary 14 million (guaranteed)+7 million signing bonus= 21 million cap hit for 2018
2019 Base Salary 15 million+ 7 million signing bonus=22 million cap hit for 2019
2020 Base Salary 19 million+7 million signing bonus=26 million cap hit for 2020
2021 Base Salary 21 million +7 million signing bonus=28 million cap hit for 2021
2022 Base Salary 30.5 million base salary= 30.5 cap hit for 2022 (pending a new final deal before the 2022 season).
Stafford would earn 125 million plus the 16.5 million in salary he is due in 2017 with this deal (five year extension plus the current year).
Basically, Stafford would be unable to be cut for three seasons but he’s a good QB in his prime so wouldn’t be cut anyway. The cap should continue to rise so a cap hit for 26 or 28 million probably won’t be that high of percentage of the total cap for 2020 and 2021. Stafford would be 34 on the final year of his deal and still worth one final contract at that point (which would lower the 30.5 million cap hit in 2022).
Many will compare to other QB deals but a lot of those deals are older deals. The cap keeps rising and so do contracts for quarterbacks. Palmer and Brees are old and got huge average deals (over 24 per). Luck hasn’t been as good as Stafford and got 24 million per season. Flacco and Rodgers have 22.5 million and 22 million dollar deal averages but they were signed a few years back.
Stafford deserves more than Luck based on the current market and how good Stafford has been despite some questionable support at times (lack of run game, no turnovers forced by his defense, poor field position, drops, lack of weapons in 2012/2013, protection issues under Lombardi in 2014/2015). Kirk Cousins and Derek Carr should get new deals soon too. We’ll see how much they get compared to Stafford and Luck.
There is no downside to a new extension unless Stafford gets a major injury (aka the Bridgewater). Finding a QB is very hard and the Lions have a good one in his prime with Stafford.
Also, extending Stafford this summer opens up the franchise tag for Ziggy Ansah in 2018, if the Lions can’t reach a deal with him the rest of this year or prior to 2018 free agency. Stafford is worth the highest average for QBs. It just happens that Stafford’s contract comes due when the market is at the hottest and peak. This is a typical break for Lions fans as far as timing but it will be great to lock him up long term until he is 35 years old.
2018 Lions Cap Space
The Lions have about 67 million in cap space for 2018 plus cap carryover (7-9 million after Levy cap reduction hits on June 1st) plus a rise in the cap for 2018 with 56 players already under contract. Detroit has a ton of space for a long term deal for Stafford and Ziggy Ansah (or franchise tag). Stafford with a 21 million dollar cap hit for 2018 (estimated) and Ziggy Ansah (17 million franchise tag or less cap hit if extended) will still leave GM Bob Quinn with plenty of room.
67 million less 38 million leaves Detroit with 29 million plus the carryover (7-9 million) plus the cap increase (5-10 million). Detroit should still have over 40 million in cap space after the Stafford deal and Ansah franchise tag and very few needs for 2018 after some great drafting and free agency use by GM Bob Quinn the last two off seasons. Bob Quinn signing Stafford to a mega extension will be a great thing for the Detroit Lions.