Matthew Stafford

Lions, Stafford Working Toward Deal

Less than a month ago, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr signed a five-year, $125MM extension to become the NFL’s highest-paid player. Carr’s stay atop the league’s earnings mountain might not last much longer, though, as there’s “internal optimism” that the Lions and quarterback Matthew Stafford will agree to a new deal within the next two weeks, reports Stacey Dales of NFL Network (via Chris Wesseling of NFL.com).

Matthew Stafford

Stafford’s entering the final season of the three-year, $53MM extension he signed in July 2013, but his next contract figures to obliterate that pact in value and could surpass Carr’s. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Stafford inked his current pact after a 20-touchdown, 17-interception showing for him and a 4-12 season for Detroit, and both he and the Lions have been far more successful since.

Stafford helped guide the Lions to a decent 34-30 record and two playoff berths over the past four seasons, and he’s now arguably fresh off the best two-year stretch of his career. Thanks in part to Jim Bob Cooter‘s promotion to offensive coordinator, Stafford tossed 56 TDs against 23 picks and completed upward of 67 percent of passes from 2015-16. He threw 24 scores and a meager 10 INTs last season, when both Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus ranked him as the league’s eighth-best passer.

Given the 29-year-old Stafford’s strong output in recent seasons, the ever-rising salary cap and the importance of his position, a mega-deal looks like a formality. Lions president Rod Wood implied as much last month, saying he’d be “comfortable” making Stafford the league’s top-paid player and adding, “It’s a premium position, and you need to have a very, very good player at that position to be credible and be competitive, and I think we do have that, and we’re working on getting a deal done.”

Another sizable contract would be the third for Stafford, who had the benefit of entering the NFL as the No. 1 pick in 2009, shortly before the league introduced the rookie wage scale in 2011. His initial deal was worth $78MM over six years and included $41.7MM in guaranteed money. Having established himself as a quality signal-caller since then, the eight-year veteran is on a path to becoming one of the highest earners in league history.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

QB Notes: Carr, Stafford, Bortles, FAs

During the press conference to announce his new contract, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr had said that he wanted to leave some money for the organization to re-sign his teammates.

“The main thing that I could just remember was all along the way, I was like, ‘How do we keep my teammates?’” Carr said (via Raiders.com). “That’s, I don’t know if it’s weird how it sounds, but that was just what I kept telling him. I was like, ‘OK. that’s cool. Yeah, that’s awesome, wow, cool. Is this good for Gabe [Jackson]? Is this good for Khalil [Mack]? Is this good for Amari [Cooper]?’ [Reggie] can tell you himself, these are things that I said to him numerous amounts of times. I didn’t want to hurt our team; that’s the last thing I would ever want to do. So, hopefully we didn’t That’s the last thing that I intended to do and that’s kind of why I was so involved.”

Well, Carr’s brother, former NFL quarterback David Carr, said the Raiders star left money on the table so the team could specifically re-sign offensive guard Gabe Jackson (via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com). While Carr still became the first player in NFL history to make more than $25MM a season, his contract apparently left enough room for the organization to re-sign Jackson to a five-year, $56MM extension.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFL pertaining to the league’s quarterbacks…

  • With all the talk surrounding free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Roy Cummings of FloridaFootballInsiders.com notes that there are a number of available signal-callers who could justify having a roster spot in the NFL. Besides the former 49ers quarterback, Cummings lists Vince Young, Robert Griffin, Christian Ponder, Johnny Manziel, and Jay Cutler as those who are still awaiting phone calls.
  • Matthew Stafford‘s 2018 franchise tag value will be around $26.4MM, according to Albert Breer of the MMQB.com. The reporter notes that this will give the veteran some leverage during contract negotiations with the Lions, as the “the expected slotted number” was around $22MM. Next season, Stafford will be earning a $16.5MM base salary in the final year of his contract.
  • The Jaguars acquisition of rookie running back Leonard Fournette, rookie lineman Cam Robinson, and veteran offensive tackle Branden Albert should give the organization some clarity on quarterback Blake Bortles, writes Breer. The 25-year-old, who seemingly took a step back last season following a breakout 2015 campaign, had his fifth-year option for 2018 picked up earlier this offseason.

Lions Rumors: Stafford, Kaaya, Asiata

Lions president Rod Wood isn’t balking at the idea of making Matthew Stafford the league’s highest-paid player, as ESPN.com’s Michael Rothstein writes.

I’m comfortable in getting a deal done with him, and we’ll see where that ends up,” Wood said. “It’s going to be whatever it takes, I think, to make it happen from both sides, and whether he becomes the highest-paid or not, it’ll be a short-lived designation because, as [general manager] Bob [Quinn] said, and I think it’s true, if you’re in the top whatever of quarterbacks, when your time comes up, your time comes up and then somebody else’s time comes up, and they become the highest-[paid player]. It’s a premium position, and you need to have a very, very good player at that position to be credible and be competitive, and I think we do have that, and we’re working on getting a deal done.”

Wood’s comments come on the heels of Quinn expressing confidence in an extension getting done before the quarterback hits free agency next year. While it’s true that the mantle of “highest-paid player” never lasts long, it’s somewhat surprising for Wood to show his hand in this fashion in the midst of major negotiations.

Here’s more from Detroit:

Lions “Confident” About Matthew Stafford Talks

As he enters his contract year, the Lions badly want to get a new deal done with Matthew Stafford. Things are in the “early stages” still, but GM Bob Quinn says he’s “confident” about an extension. Matthew Stafford (vertical)

Always have positive thinking,” Quinn told SiriusXM’s NASCAR radio (transcript via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press). “But I’ve said this a bunch of times. It takes two sides to do a deal and I feel confident that we’ll get something done.”

Quinn’s comments are not dissimilar to remarks he made in early May. Although it doesn’t sound like negotiations have progressed a ton in the last six weeks, the Lions GM is still optimistic about something coming together in the late summer.

A new deal for Stafford could call for making him the highest paid player in the NFL with an average annual salary $25MM+ per season. Stafford has indicated a desire to stay in Detroit, but his team is likely waiting on potential new deals for Kirk Cousins and Derek Carr before agreeing to a new contract.

Last year, Stafford was among the best QBs in the league as he threw for 4,327 yards and 24 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He 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. Stafford may not be the best QB in the NFL, but contracts are all about timing, and he is poised to cash in as the league’s highest-paid player.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Steelers, Davis, Stafford, Pack

Despite Alejandro Villanueva continuing to attend Steelers OTAs, the left tackle and the team are still not on the same page regarding his contract, Bob Labriola of Steelers.com notes. Using a situation one-time Pittsburgh ERFA Willie Parker found himself in several years ago as a comparison, the Steelers writer advocates that Villanueva take what the team is offering to get some more money upfront. As an ERFA, Villanueva can make just $540K this season on the tender he hasn’t signed. But as a two-year starter for the Steelers, the former Army Ranger is obviously worth more than that. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk argues Villanueva should not accept a Steelers lowball offer and withhold his services this summer until the team submits a viable proposal. Nothing’s come out on what kind of deal the team has offered. The sides have talked since at least February on this pact, so this has reached impasse status.

Villanueva is a rare 28-year-old ERFA, and under the terms of his initial NFL contract, the would-be third-year starter won’t be able to become an unrestricted free agent until he’s 30 in 2019. Labriola notes Parker signed a three-year, $13.6MM deal to stay in Pittsburgh in the summer of 2006. As the going rate for linemen continues to rise as teams’ ability to develop them out of college becomes more difficult, Villanueva would have considerable value on the market. But his current circumstances could force him to make a decision soon.

Here’s the latest coming out of the North divisions.

  • The common view around the league, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, is the Lions will make Matthew Stafford the league’s highest-paid quarterback by summer’s end. One NFL source said last month Stafford will wait for Derek Carr to sign his extension first and work off of that, and Birkett noting Stafford’s better body of work compared to the younger Carr puts him in a position to wait and command more money.
  • Demario Davis did not have the speed the Browns wanted at their linebacker position, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes. The Browns traded their incumbent No. 1 middle linebacker to the Jets in exchange for Calvin Pryor. Davis is returning to the Jets and their 3-4 scheme. Cleveland is pivoting back to a 4-3 after hiring Gregg Williams, and while the Browns installed Davis as their primary middle ‘backer and moved 2016 breakout performer Christian Kirksey to the weak side, the team plans to use Kirksey and Jamie Collins in its nickel sets. As for the starting middle linebacker in the base alignment, the Browns may first turn to Tank Carder for now, per Pluto. Carder has been with the Browns for six years but has worked as a backup throughout that time.
  • We heard earlier the Browns are considering using a 4-2-5 nickel-type look more frequently to help Jabrill Peppers — often a linebacker at Michigan — and Pluto notes the team does plan to bring a large dose of nickel sets this season. While the league has already gravitated toward passing-down sub-packages as offenses have spread out more in recent years, the Browns would seem to have personnel that fits better with this alignment. Especially after the team signed Jason McCourty to join Joe Haden and Jamar Taylor.
  • Punter Jake Schum cleared waivers and will be transferred back to the Packers‘ IR list, according to the Associated Press. The Packers cut Schum earlier this week after he served as the punter last season in all 19 Green Bay games. It’s unclear what injury Schum sustained. UDFA Justin Vogel is the only punter on the team’s roster, but the Packers didn’t acquire Schum until August after using a waiver claim on him.

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.