Matthew Stafford’s deal is done, and the Detroit Lions quarterback is — for now, at least — the highest paid player in NFL history.
Stafford and the Lions agreed to a five-year contract extension on Monday, a person familiar with the contract told the Free Press. The person requested anonymity because the deal hasn’t been announced by the team.
Exact terms of the deal are not yet known, but Stafford will make an average annual salary of $27 million (U.S.) over the life of the contract, more than Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr ($25 million) got on the five-year extension he signed in June.
The Lions opened negotiations with Stafford around the NFL combine in March, and they bridged what one person familiar with the talks described as a “significant” gap in recent weeks.
Stafford said in April that he would “love to” sign a long-term extension with the Lions, his third contract with the team that made him the No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 draft, and Lions general manager Bob Quinn had long pointed to the summer as the time he expected a deal to get done.
Stafford, 29, already holds most franchise passing records including yards (30,303), completions (2,634), attempts (4,285) and touchdowns (187), and he’s coming off arguably his best season as a pro.
Last year, Stafford, playing for the first time in his career without wide receiver Calvin Johnson, led an NFL-record eight come-from-behind victories as the Lions finished 9-7 and made the playoffs as a wildcard for the third time in his nine NFL seasons.
The Lions haven’t won a playoff game since 1991, and Stafford is 51-61 in his career as a starter, including 0-3 in the postseason.
Still, Stafford has shown enough that the Lions believe he will be the quarterback that finally leads them to sustained success. He’s dramatically raised his completion percentage and lowered his interception rate in recent seasons, and he ranks as one of the league’s leading ironmen with 96 straight starts.
Last year, the Lions began the season 9-4 and lost their final three regular-season games after Stafford sprained the middle finger on his throwing hand. He declined what would have been his second Pro Bowl appearance as an alternate to rest his injured finger.
“Even though you’ve seen him play well, I think you’re going to see him play even better,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said earlier this spring. “He’s got an extraordinary amount of ability, not only just in terms of what he does from a physical standpoint, delivering balls from different angles and things of that nature, but then also from a leadership standpoint, which I think is equally important and he demonstrates that.
“He’s taken ownership of what we do and how we do it and I think that certainly without question bodes well for the future.”
Stafford, who was scheduled to make a base salary of $16.5 million this fall on the extension he signed in the summer of 2013, already has pocketed more than $110 million in career on-field earnings.
His contract now becomes the standard by which other quarterback deals will be judged. Washington’s Kirk Cousins will be a free agent after this season after he failed to reach a long-term extension before the franchise tag deadline July 17, and Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan are other quarterbacks who could be up for extensions soon.
Before this summer, Andrew Luck was the highest paid quarterback in the NFL at $24.6 million per season. Luck received $47 million fully guaranteed at the time he signed his contract, and $87 million in overall guarantees.
Former Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh set an NFL record with nearly $60 million in immediate guarantees when he signed with the Dolphins as a free agent in 2015.
For the Lions, Stafford’s contract continues a recent history of handing out summer contract extensions under Quinn.
Last year, the team signed Darius Slay, Theo Riddick and Sam Martin to extensions when they were about to enter the final season on their contracts, and in July, the Lions inked Glover Quin to a two-year contract extension.