Matthew Stafford Quietly the Richest Player in NFL History, and the Lions are Better Because of it

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford looks on from the sideline against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter of an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Matthew Stafford has spent his entire career playing for the Detroit Lions, one of the least-marketed teams in the NFL. He has quietly earned over $110 million prior to this deal, and he will now more than double that over the next five seasons. On Monday evening, reports came pouring over social media that Detroit had agreed to a five-year extension with their top quarterback. The contract’s total value is $135 million, making #9 the highest paid player in NFL history. The parameters of the deal include a $50 million signing bonus and $92 million in total guaranteed money.

On paper, the deal seems as if Stafford and company took full advantage of Detroit and the current market, as many do not feel that a quarterback who has never won a playoff game is deserving of such financial security. However, with how the market is going, this extension is one of the smartest things Detroit can do, and it also allows Stafford to have some security in the fact that he does not have to have the season of his life to earn his contract.

One of the most underrated qualities about Matthew Stafford is how humble he is. In 2012, following his 5000 yard passing season, ESPN did an E:60 on Stafford and how he went from injury-riddled to resurrecting the Detroit Lions. Even then, as a $78 million dollar quarterback, Stafford wore gym shorts, a Lions shirt, backwards hat, and oh yeah, a rubber band on his wrist. He drives a truck to practice and back, and would rather hang with his close friends in small numbers at a cookout than go clubbing with an entourage. He is currently the richest player in NFL history, earning the biggest rookie contract ever and now the wealthiest deal ever, and yet very few talk about him. As much as it can frustrate fans of him, in the end, I think it is exactly how he wants it to be.

There is doubt to some that the Detroit Lions quarterback is not deserving of such a large contract, but what many will realize is that this deal was the smartest thing Detroit did this offseason. By getting the deal done now, the Lions have set the market and no longer have to worry about raising Stafford’s cap until 2022. Additionally, the next slew of quarterbacks needing extensions will now be paid more than him, crippling other teams’ cap lines, one of them being the division rival Green Bay Packers. The contract this year will earn Stafford $16.5 million, opening up $5 million in cap space for Detroit. It also opens up the franchise tag option for the Lions to use, potentially on defensive lineman Ezekiel Ansah.

And plus, this is Stafford we are talking about, easily the best quarterback ever to wear Honolulu blue. In a stat-happy, quarterback-driven era, Stafford has reaped the benefits, already a top-50 quarterback, statistically, in NFL history. Per ESPN’s Michael Rothstein, Stafford ranks No. 39 in completions, No. 47 in attempts, No. 44 in yards, No. 49 in touchdowns and No. 23 in passer rating. On top of that, over the last three years, his efficiency has skyrocketed. In 2016, he had the lowest interception total of his career with 10, completed over 65% of his passes and finished with a rating of 93.3 for the season. All of these stats are great, but what stands out his is leadership and clutch play in the big moments last season. In case you have not heard of Stafford’s innate comeback abilities, see the video below.

Matthew Stafford is 29-years old and hitting the prime of his career. He is married with two young daughters, has never had extracurricular issues off the field, and is by far one of the most laid-back and humble NFL players in the league. With the loss of Calvin Johnson, Stafford has taken on the leadership role of the offense with ease and has received praise for it from his teammates and former teammates. He can make all the throws, has a promising supporting cast, a coaching staff he gels with and has led Detroit to the playoffs two of the last three years. In a quarterback-driven league, to think that there was a better option somewhere else is absolutely ridiculous. This was the deal the Lions had to make, and they did it.

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