July 17-- Now it's Matthew Stafford's turn.
The Detroit Lions quarterback will get his turn to play contract-negotiation bingo after Washington and Kirk Cousins couldn't come to an agreement on a long-term deal. The two parties settled on the former Michigan State QB playing this season under the franchise tag for $23.9 million when the deadline arrived Monday.
Cousins' inability to secure a long-term deal that topped an annual average salary of $25 million is slightly bad news for Stafford. If Cousins could have surpassed the deal the Oakland Raiders paid Derek Carr in June ($125 million for five years), that would have set the new bar for quarterback pay.
In reality, no one expected Cousins to beat Carr's deal. According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, Washington's offer to Cousins was well short of $23.9 million and only guaranteed two years of salary.
So the QB megabuck bar stays at Carr's $25-million average. But how long will it stay there? Someone inevitably will set the new bar, but will it be Stafford?
My guess is yes, for two reasons. The NFL is, quite literally, an arms race when it comes to what teams are willing to pay-and overpay-quarterbacks. That means whatever Lions general manager Bob Quinn forks over to Stafford won't be the standard for long. In 10 years, we'll laugh about the pittance the Lions paid Stafford in 2017.
The second reason Stafford will get a richer contract is because of the optimism Quinn has expressed about signing Stafford to a new deal.
In June, Quinn told SiriusXM NASCAR radio he was "confident" a deal would get done.
In April, Quinn told a summit of season-ticket holders, "Matthew's a quarterback that I want here, and he's a quarterback that Coach (Jim) Caldwell wants here, so we're in the early stages. It takes two sides to do a deal, and we're working towards that."
Quinn has known all along Stafford would wait until Carr and Cousins resolved their contracts before signing his. That means Quinn knew he would have to pay Stafford more than Carr and Cousins.
And now he will.
Stafford has been smart about the process. He hasn't put a timetable on discussions, like Carr did when he said he wouldn't negotiate after training camp opens July 29.
Stafford also knows time is his ally. He's in the final year of his contract and the Lions face a $26.4-million franchise tag in 2018 if they want to keep him away from free agency.
The Lions have two options. One is to wait and see how Stafford plays this year before they come to agreement on an offer-and let's face it, no matter if Stafford plays poorly, some team would offer him a $26-million average salary.
The second option the Lions have is to sign Stafford to a new deal and create cap flexibility.
We can talk about Stafford all day and go back and forth on his 5,000-yard season and his comebacks, or how he has been inconsistent and never put together great consecutive seasons and is 0-3 in the playoffs.
Here's what it comes down to with paying Stafford insane money: Do you think he's going to win the Lions a Super Bowl?
If Stafford had a chance to win a Super Bowl, it was probably in 2013 or '14, when he still had Calvin Johnson, and Reggie Bush was rushing for 1,000 yards, and the defense had Ndamukong Suh, DeAndre Levy and Ziggy Ansah all playing at an elite level.
It's the Lions' own fault for not having a legitimate backup they've been grooming to take over. Sure, Stafford has sometimes been a very good quarterback, but at what other significant position does the team routinely ignore the need for an eventual replacement? But still, Stafford is the Lions' only hope to win.
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