There was no doubt Matthew Stafford was the quarterback of the future for the Detroit Lions, but on Monday it was made it official when he and the team signed a five-year contract extension worth $135 million. It is the largest such deal in NFL history, surpassing Derek Carr of Oakland’s deal for $125 million, signed in June. and leaves the Lions wondering what kind of return they’ll see on their investment.
Stafford, 29, has been with the club since he was the first overall pick in the 2009 draft. The Lions had gone 0-16 in 2008, and in his first year Stafford upped their record to 2-14. Since then he has had three winning seasons out of seven, including an 11-5 mark in 2014.
“When I was drafted here, we were obviously coming off a 0-16 season and in a lot of ways needed some new breath and some direction,” Stafford said Tuesday. “And I was lucky and happy and honored to be a part of getting it from where it was then to where it is now. And hopefully that exponential of a jump can happen again, and we can go from where we are now to where we really want to be and that’s hoisting a Lombardi Trophy.”
Playoff Games FTW
If Stafford’s Lions are going to win a Super Bowl, they first need to win a playoff game, which they still haven’t done since Stafford’s arrival nine seasons ago. Detroit has made the postseason three times (2011, 2014, 2016) and lost in the Wild Card game each time.
The Detroit Lions are the only NFC team to never make a Super Bowl. They did win the 1957 NFL Championship, before the Super Bowl had been created, but since then have won only one game in 13 playoff appearances. That victory came in 1991 against the Dallas Cowboys.
The odds don’t look much better this year. Las Vegas bookmakers have the Lions as a 60-1 longshot for Stafford to realize that dream of holding up the Lombardi Trophy.
They begin the season Sunday, Sept. 10, at home against the Arizona Cardinals, where the Lions are currently 2.5-point favorites.
Experts and pundits do like the moves the Lions made in the offseason, including improvements to both the offensive and defensive lines. The skill positions are a little light with wide receiver Golden Tait as the only bona fide star, so it will be up to Stafford to be as efficient as he was last year before a finger injury curtailed his productivity.
General Manager Under Microscope
If there’s one man facing more pressure than Stafford to perform, it’s General Manager Bob Quinn. Now in his second year at the Lions’ helm, he was brought on board to transform Detroit into a playoff-bound team, a feat he already accomplished in his rookie season.
Now the heat is building for him and his staff to put players on the field that can win the organization’s first postseason game since 1991.
But Quinn did give himself some financial wiggle room by shedding money from wide receiver Calvin Johnson’s monstrous contract (an 8-year extension for $132 million signed in 2012). This move helped allow him to lock up Stafford on his roster until 2022, while still able to shop around for additional talent.
“Yeah, there’s more money to go around,” Quinn said. “And it’s my job and the scouting department’s job and our contract people’s job to make everything fit and field the most competitive people that we can.”