With a base salary of $16.5 million and a cap charge of $22 million for 2017, Stafford will have plenty of leverage if he gets through the season without a new deal. At that point, it would cost the Lions $26.4 million to use the franchise tag for 2018. The tag would increase by another 20 percent to $31.698 million for 2019.
That’s a total payout of more than $58 million over two years, and that’s what Stafford should be seeking on a long-term deal before the coming season ends. Before the season ends, Stafford carries the risk of injury, which means he should be willing to take less than $58 million over the first two years, fully guaranteed.
At a bare minimum, he should be taking nothing less than his full $16.5 million for 2017 plus the 2018 tag amount fully guaranteed, a total of $42.9 million. Again, that’s the absolute bare minimum he should be willing to collect.
Stafford also should try to be the first quarterback to have the back end of the deal protected against ongoing cap spikes by tying compensation to increases in the annual spending limit. Some have tried but no one has managed to secure this term, which is permitted by the labor deal but apparently frowned upon by the Management Council.
However it plays out, the Lions will be able to do a much better deal if they do it sooner than later. Waiting sets the stage for a Kirk Cousins-type situation, with Stafford getting $26.4 million then $31.68 million then a 20-percent raise under the transition tag ($38 million) or a 44-percent spike under the franchise tag ($45.6 million) for 2020.
That’s either $96 million or $103 million for the three years after his contract expires. Which makes it even more important to get him to agree to terms before that happens.