Matthew Stafford

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.

Extra Points: Stafford, Ravens, Rams, Bills

At least one NFL source believes Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford will wait for the Raiders to extend Derek Carr before working out his own long-term deal, reports Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. Both Oakland and Carr want extension talks to wrap up as quickly as possible, at which point Stafford and his representation would be able to point to Carr’s new figures as a starting point. Detroit is reportedly in the early stages of negotiations with Stafford, who — like Carr — is scheduled to become a free agent in 2018.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • After the Ravens surprisingly didn’t add a wide receiver at any point during the draft, the club could conceivably turn to the trade market in its search for a pass-catcher, as Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun and Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com write. Both scribes point to New England’s Danny Amendola and Los Angeles’ Dontrelle Inman as logical potential acquisitions, as higher-caliber wideouts such as the Bills’ Sammy Watkins and the Jets’ Eric Decker probably aren’t feasible. It’s not known whether the Ravens are calling teams about wide receivers, but as Zrebiec notes, they’ve gone this route before. In 2010, Baltimore traded two draft picks to Arizona to acquire Anquan Boldin, and one year later, dealt for Buffalo’s Lee Evans.
  • Although he was being courted by the Rams, Joe Hortiz will remain in place as the Ravens‘ director of college scouting, tweets Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. Hortiz, who has worked in Baltimore for 19 years, was Los Angeles’ top choice to lead its reshuffled scouting department. Although the Ravens couldn’t block Hortiz from leaving, he’s chosen to stay in his current role. Hortiz was a contender for a top personnel role with the Eagles in 2015, but either declined to interview or wasn’t allowed to by the Ravens.
  • The Bills have found a new general manager in former Panthers executive Brandon Beane, but the club has more work to in its front office, according to Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. Jim Overdorf, Buffalo’s chief contract negotiator, could be on the chopping block given that Beane’s prior work history is rife with salary cap experience. As such, Beane may look to bring in his own financial staffers instead of relying on Overdorf, who’s handled the Bills’ cap since 2008. As Carucci explains, Buffalo’s roster is full of “bloated contracts”, meaning the next negotiator will have his hands full.

Lions, Matthew Stafford Begin Negotiations

It’s early, but contract talks are underway between the Lions and Matthew Stafford, GM Bob Quinn told Alex Marvez of The Sporting News. The quarterback is entering the final year of his deal. Matthew Stafford (vertical)

We’re in the early stages,” Quinn said. “It’s really too early to kind of give any update but we’re going through the process. These things don’t happen overnight. I feel confident we can get something done.”

Stafford could be in line to become the league’s highest-paid quarterback, supplanting Andrew Luck at the top. Luck signed his five-year, $122.97MM extension last summer, just prior to his 27th birthday. Stafford, meanwhile, is 29, but the rising cap and dearth of quality quarterbacks could result in him netting an even richer deal.

Last year, Stafford performed like a top quarterback as he threw for 4,327 yards and 24 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. The University of Georgia product had the tenth-best completion percentage in the league (65.3%) amongst qualified QBs and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 9 signal caller.

The Lions are hoping for a repeat of that in 2017, but they would like to lock him up now before they are faced with a pricey decision to make on the franchise tag. Tagging Stafford in 2018 would cost upwards of $26MM. Doing it again for 2019 could cost nearly $32MM. Obviously, those cap numbers are unpalatable and the Lions would greatly prefer a long-term deal at a lower yearly rate.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Mixon, Eagles, Lions, Stafford

Thanks to his off-field transgressions, Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon‘s draft stock is reportedly dropping, but the Eagles are among those who have him on their board, writes Jeff McLane of Philly.com. Owner Jeffrey Lurie has given team brass his blessing to consider drafting Mixon, two sources confirmed to McLane. Notably, two of the Eagles’ key decision-makers, vice president of football operations Howie Roseman and VP of player personnel Joe Douglas, spoke highly of Mixon’s abilities on Thursday. “There’s not much he can’t do,” Roseman said. “He’s incredible with the ball in his hands, you can split him out, he’s got really good hands [as a receiver], he can pass-protect, he can make people miss.” Douglas added that “a lot of people think that he is one of the top backs in this draft,” but he noted that “most teams” are considering Mixon’s character issues.

More on Philadelphia and a pair of its NFC foes:

  • Speculatively, Mixon could be a possibility for the Eagles beginning in Round 2. Before debating whether to take him, they’ll have to make a decision in the opening round, where they’re slated to pick 14th. The club has come up with “probably about seven or eight scenarios” for that spot, according to Douglas, and Roseman expects to end up with a star-caliber player with that selection. “One thing I know — when we make a pick at 14, with the way our board looks right now, we’re going to all be high-fiving then, and very excited about that pick,” declared Roseman (via Les Bowen of Philly.com).
  • Entering a contract year, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford could become the highest-paid player in the NFL by next offseason, though Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press argues that he’s not worth it. While Monarrez expects the Lions to cave to Stafford’s demands, he opines that the signal-caller’s age (30 next February) and zero playoff wins are among the reasons the team would be better off letting him test the market than become the league’s richest player in Detroit.
  • Speaking of the Lions, general manager Bob Quinn addressed the strengths of this year’s draft Thursday, saying it’s particularly deep at running back, wide receiver, cornerback, safety and tight end (Twitter link via Tim Twentyman of the team website).
  • Linebacker Sam Acho‘s one-year deal with the Bears is worth $855K, including $130K fully guaranteed, tweets ESPN’s Adam Caplan.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

NFC Notes: Lions, Saints, Cards, Redskins

Quarterback Matthew Stafford told reporters Tuesday that he “would love” to sign an extension with the Lions, but further comments indicate he’s looking to cash in – not take any kind of a discount – writes Kyle Meinke of MLive.com. Stafford addressed whether a mega-deal with the Lions would hinder their ability to build a quality team around him, saying: “I know every year teams find good ways to put good teams around good quarterbacks. You see it every year. So I’m not too worried about that. I know that the salary caps and all that kind of stuff is as malleable as you want it to be, so I think you just go and try and make a good decision for not only the player but the team and go from there.” Only four of the NFL’s 10 highest-paid quarterbacks were on teams that made the playoffs last season, with top-compensated signal-caller Andrew Luck among those whose clubs didn’t qualify. Thanks to the ever-rising cap, Stafford, 17th in QB salary in 2016, could be in line to supplant Luck as the league’s richest passer on his next deal.

More from the NFC:

  • The fact that quarterback Drew Brees is entering his age-38 season is a good reason for the Saints to swing a deal for New England cornerback Malcolm Butler, argues Mike Triplett of ESPN.com. Butler would occupy a hefty chunk of New Orleans’ cap room with an extension and would likely cost the team the 32nd overall pick, but he’s young enough (27) and has proven enough to make a trade a worthwhile move for a win-now team whose best player, Brees, might not have much time left, Triplett suggests. Butler signed his restricted free agent tender Tuesday, making him eligible for a trade. The Saints have shown significant interest in Butler this spring, even engaging in productive contract talks with him last month.
  • If the Cardinals were to draft a quarterback, that player would step into a “unique” situation, head coach Bruce Arians told Darren Urban of the team’s website (Twitter link). The Cardinals will rest aging starter Carson Palmer each Wednesday during the season, enabling the rookie to helm the first-team offense in practice once a week and perhaps expedite his development. Arizona owns the 13th overall pick and has shown interest in several draft-bound QBs, including prospective first-rounders Mitch Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Davis Webb and DeShone Kizer.
  • The way the Redskins approach the offensive tackle position in the draft could be a sign of how extension talks are going with Morgan Moses, observes Rich Tandler of CSN Mid-Atlantic. The right tackle is set to play a contract year, so it’s possible the Redskins will spend an early pick on a potential replacement. On the other hand, if they only address the position late or not at all, it may bode well for a new Moses deal. Washington has the money to get a deal done, opines Tandler, who expects Moses to earn $6MM to $7MM annually on his next pact. The 25-year-old has certainly made a case for a raise – he’s coming off his second consecutive 16-start season, one in which he ranked as Pro Football Focus’ 17th-best tackle among 78 qualifiers.
  • Meanwhile, Tandler senses that Redskins outside linebacker Trent Murphy and safety Bashaud Breeland are inclined to wait on discussing extensions (though it’s unclear whether the team is pursuing deals with either). While Murphy tallied a career-high nine sacks last season, his contract year has already gotten off to an inauspicious start with a four-game suspension. Breeland just switched agents, but judging by Tandler’s report, he’s not ready to put his new rep’s negotiating skills to the test quite yet.

Extra Points: Hankins, Stafford, Falcons

Even though it took him until Tuesday to visit the Colts, newly signed defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said Friday that his agent had been in contact with the team since the scouting combine in March. “We spoke to ’em I guess when my agent met with them at the combine and always been in contact with them,’’ Hankins revealed (via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post). “We were always in contact with a number of teams, and the Colts really stepped out among them all. Took a visit here, met with the coaches and everything just fell right in place. It was a good — I won’t say easy — decision, but it was a good decision for me and my family and I’m excited to be here.” Now armed with a three-year, $30MM contract, Hankins expects to make an impact in Indianapolis from both run-stuffing and pass-rushing standpoints.

Here’s more from around the league.

  • The Lions continue to engage in conversations about a Matthew Stafford extension, and the talks are unfolding amicably, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Bob Quinn told season-ticket holders today he and Jim Caldwell, unsurprisingly, want Stafford in Detroit long-term but still doesn’t anticipate anything being done until the summer. That’s been his stance throughout the offseason.
  • Stafford joins Matt Ryan and Derek Carr as quarterbacks who could become the league’s highest-paid player by summer’s end. The Lions’ ninth-year starter should look to build in protections for future cap spikes to ensure he stays near the top of that list, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes. While this kind of deal has not been completed, Florio notes some quarterbacks and agents have tried to insert such language into contracts. It would cost the Lions $26.4MM to use the franchise tag on Stafford next season.
  • O.J. Howard has the Falcons slotted as his final pre-draft visit, Conor Orr of NFL.com tweets. The Alabama tight end would seem to require a near-Julio Jones-level trade from the Falcons if they were to select him, being presently stationed in the No. 31 position. PFR’s Dallas Robinson has the pass-catcher going off the board to the Jaguars at No. 4.
  • The Texans hosted safety Josh Jones on a visit today, per Caplan (via Twitter). Safety may now reside as Houston’s top need on an otherwise loaded defense after the unit lost Quintin Demps to the Bears. An N.C. State product, Jones paid a visit to Miami last week and has trips to meet with the Panthers, Jets and Redskins set up.
  • As he prepares for a contract year, Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland will switch agencies, writes Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post. Breeland is ditching CAA Sports in favor of Joe Flanagan, two sources told Tesfatsion. Breeland has been productive since the Redskins selected him in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, having totaled 42 starts and seven interceptions during his first three seasons. The 25-year-old logged career highs in tackles (71) and picks (three) in 2016, though Pro Football Focus ranked his performance just 81st among 111 qualified corners.

Sam Robinson contributed to this report.

NFC Notes: Giants, Hankins, Lions, Rams

Giants co-owner Steve Tisch confirmed Monday that the team has an offer on the table to re-up free agent defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, per James Kratch of NJ.com. The Giants submitted the multiyear proposal before the opening of the market, where Hankins hasn’t been able to find a payday to his liking. Contrary to a prior report, the Giants haven’t set a deadline for the 25-year-old to accept their contract, according to Tisch, who’s “very optimistic” an agreement will happen and “pretty convinced” Hankins wants to re-sign.

A few other NFC notes:

  • Tisch also spoke on the Giants’ long-term quarterback situation, saying “there’s no urgency” to find an heir to Eli Manning, “but it’s in the back of everybody’s mind” (Twitter link via Ralph Vacchiano of SNY). Manning will play his age-36 season in 2017.
  • The Lions are in the “very early stages” of contract extension negotiations with quarterback Matthew Stafford, general manager Bob Quinn told the team’s website (via Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com). Quinn indicated that it’s going to take “months, not weeks” for a deal to come together. Stafford, 29, is slated to enter a contract year.
  • On the heels of their unsuccessful attempt to swipe center Ryan Groy from the Bills, the Rams continue to look for a solution at the position, reports Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com. The Rams want an experienced pivot to team with young quarterback Jared Goff, and they’re scouring the trade and free agent markets to acquire one (Nick Mangold is available, for what it’s worth). Aside from possibly signing a center, the Rams are all but done with free agency, Gonzalez adds.

Extra Points: Falcons, Lions, Raiders, Draft

With their contracts soon to expire, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and Lions signal-caller Matthew Stafford should each be in line for extensions this offseason. But their respective general managers indicated Wednesday that new deals aren’t imminent.

“I’m saying that eventually, we will address Matt Ryan and his contract,” said the Falcons’ Thomas Dimitroff (via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com). “Right now, our focus is going to be on this year’s class, understanding that Matt is a very important part of our future, as every knows — an extremely important part of our future.”

The Lions’ Bob Quinn took a similar tack, stating (per Kyle Meinke of MLive.com): “We’re kind of taking it one step at a time with the current free-agent class, the current draft class. I mean, these things don’t usually happen in April or May. That’s not a realistic timeline for an extension for a quarterback. But that’s something we do have on the agenda, and we’ll hopefully be able to have some discussions.”

Ryan and Stafford have the same representative, Tom Condon, who figures to help them become two of the league’s highest-paid passers in the coming months. Ryan still has another two years left on the extension he signed in 2013, while Stafford is due to become a free agent after next season.

Elsewhere around the league:

  • Like Stafford, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is going into a contract year, though Carr hopes his status changes soon. “I’m a Raider for life,” he told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday (via Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com). “I don’t want to play anywhere else. When I got drafted, this is where I wanted to be anyway. I don’t want to go anywhere, ever. They told me they don’t want me to go anywhere, ever. Now it’s about two people who want to be together, and how do we make that happen? We’ll see.” GM Reggie McKenzie made it clear in January that he’s aiming to extend Carr sooner than later.
  • Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas is drawing similar buzz to highly touted DE prospects Myles Garrett (Texas A&M) and Jonathan Allen (Alabama) at the combine, tweets Peter Schrager of FOX Sports. All three seem like good bets to end up among the first players to come off the board, with Garrett standing a strong chance to go No. 1 overall. The 6-foot-3, 271-pound Thomas piled up 61 tackles, including 14 for loss, and 8.5 sacks last season.
  • Quinn is “disappointed” controversial Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon did not get a combine invite, and the Lions executive isn’t closing the door on drafting him (Twitter link via Justin Rogers of The Detroit News). Mixon is a high-round talent, but his draft stock is in question on account of a disturbing July 2014 physical altercation that led Oklahoma to redshirt him that season. Mixon was caught on video striking a fellow student, Alicia Molitor, who he claims used a racial slur and spit in his face. As a result, Mixon was placed on probation for one year and ordered to release the video.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Extra Points: Stafford, Boldin, Tice, McCoy

As the Dolphins and Steelers do battle, let’s take a look at some notes from around the league:

  • Lions quarterback Matt Stafford will not need surgery on his injured right middle finger, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press writes. Stafford was excellent for much of the season, but he completed just 58.6% of his passes for four touchdowns and five interceptions after the injury, and he could get nothing going in a frustrating season-ending loss to Seattle last night.
  • Lions WR Anquan Boldin had a nice first season in Detroit, and the 36-year-old wideout, who posted 67 catches for 584 yards and a team-leading eight touchdowns, plans to return for his 15th season in the league in 2017, according to Nate Atkins of MLive.com.
  • The contract for Raiders O-line coach Mike Tice is up, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, but Oakland has prioritized bringing him back. That makes sense, as the team is sending three offensive linemen to the Pro Bowl this year.
  • Former Chargers head coach Mike McCoy will apparently not be unemployed for long. Rapoport tweets that McCoy is largely considered the top offensive coordinator available and has been mentioned as many teams’ offensive coordinator of choice.
  • Even if the Dolphins were to pull off the upset in Pittsburgh this afternoon, the team is not counting on Ryan Tannehill to return next week, according to Rapoport (via Twitter). Tannehill was, at least, able to practice on Friday.
  • Ohio State WR Noah Brown will enter the NFL draft, according to Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (via Twitter). The 6-2, 218-pound wideout had a breakout year for the Buckeyes, and is currently projected to be selected in the second or third round of the draft.
  • In a series of articles, OverTheCap.com offers a preview of the strongest and weakest offensive positions in this year’s free agent class, examines which linebackers could become cap casualties, and projects the 2017 compensatory picks.

Matthew Stafford Tears Ligaments In Throwing Hand

The Lions moved to 9-4 today and remain in strong position to clinch their first NFC North championship, but the franchise’s degree of difficulty looks to have been raised. Matthew Stafford will be required to throw with a glove on his hand due to tearing multiple ligaments in his right middle finger, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports.

The eighth-year quarterback also dislocated the finger, per Schefter, with the top of it bent downwards “at a 90-degree angle” with the passer having no control over the top part of it at present, Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com notes.

Rothstein points out Stafford intends to play through this malady, one that could well sideline many players. Stafford injured the finger during a first-quarter play on which he was called for intentional grounding, but his throwing hand collided with Bears pass-rusher Leonard Floyd, resulting in Stafford putting a glove on to manage it the rest of the way. Although he threw a touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin and gave the Lions a lead they didn’t relinquish with a touchdown run, leading Detroit to another comeback victory, Stafford said postgame the injury affected his grip and the velocity of his throws.

Just tried to play through it,” Stafford said, via Rothstein. “Play as good as I could. I let those guys know that it may not be pretty coming in there, but those guys made some great plays for me. Obviously didn’t play as well as I can.”

Stafford completed 21-of-35 passes for 223 yards and threw two interceptions in addition to his TD toss. He has dealt with this kind of setback before. During the 2011 season, the former No. 1 overall pick fractured the index finger on his throwing hand and wore a glove. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press points out he threw four interceptions in his first game with the glove that year and five more in the ensuing two contests. However, Stafford finished that season with a glowing stat line — 41 touchdown passes and 5,038 air yards — during a campaign in which the Lions qualified for the playoffs.

Seeking their second playoff berth in three years and first division title in 23 seasons, the Lions close the season with games against the Giants, Cowboys and Packers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.