NFC Notes: Lions, Bucs, Falcons, 49ers

By the time Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford‘s career ends, he could supplant Peyton Manning as the NFL’s all-time earnings king, observes Joel Corry of CBSSports.com. Manning made nearly $250MM during his career, and, as Corry writes, Stafford has a few factors on his side that might help him eventually surpass the former Colt and Bronco. Stafford entered the league at a young age (21), for one, and as the No. 1 pick two years before the league introduced the rookie wage scale. That enabled him to land a mammoth deal (six years, $72MM) prior to ever playing a professional down. Further, Stafford has already signed a lucrative extension, having inked a three-year, $53MM pact in 2013. By agreeing to that short-term deal, Stafford is now in position to cash in once again by 2018. To this point, the 29-year-old has made more money through the age of 28 ($110.5MM) than anyone else in league history, per Corry, who adds that Stafford will have a chance to go past $200MM by 2021 and might even hit $300MM before his playing days are over.

Now for the latest on a few NFC backfields:

  • Suspended running back Doug Martin doesn’t seem like a sure bet to play a down for the Buccaneers in 2017, as head coach Dirk Koetter told ESPN’s Wendi Nix on Thursday (via JoeBucsFan.com) that it’s “yet to be determined” what will happen at the end of his three-game ban. That jibes with a February report from FanRag’s Roy Cummings, who relayed that the Bucs will “play the Martin situation out.” Tampa Bay can afford to take its time with Martin, whose $7MM salary for next season is no longer guaranteed on account of his suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. It could help his cause, though, that the Buccaneers didn’t use a high draft pick on a runner, waiting until the fifth round to grab Jeremy McNichols, and haven’t added any notable veterans to their backfield this offseason.
  • While Falcons running back Devonta Freeman won’t hold out in hopes of landing a new contract, he continues to seek top-tier money relative to his position. “I want to be elite paid. Whatever that is, that’s where I want to be — straight up,” Freeman told Josina Anderson of ESPN. Freeman is in lockstep with his agent, Kristin Campbell, who declared prior to Super Bowl LI that the 25-year-old should be in line for “elite” money. As of now, Freeman’s not on track to approach the NFL’s highest-paid backs in 2017, the final year of his contract, as he’s slated to make $1.8MM. There’s still plenty of time for an extension to come together, of course, and both Freeman and the Falcons have made it clear that they want to work something out.
  • Rookie fourth-rounder Joe Williams will have a legitimate shot to overtake Carlos Hyde as the 49ers’ No. 1 running back in 2017, opines Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. The John Lynch– and Kyle Shanahan-led Niners traded up in the draft for Williams and are quite bullish on the ex-Utah star, notes Maiocco, who also points out that Hyde is entering a contract year. San Francisco, then, isn’t tied to Hyde for the long haul, and its new regime has no built-in loyalty to the three-year veteran. It’s worth noting that Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com reported last month that the 49ers’ bigwigs aren’t enamored of Hyde.
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