On the surface, Wednesday’s comment from Lions G.M. Bob Quinn that the franchise and its franchise quarterback are in the “early stages” of contract talks seems like news. But it’s not really new news.
Quinn said the same thing last month.
“We’re in the very early stages of talking to Matthew and his representatives,” Quinn said in the middle of April regarding talks that actually began in February at the Scouting Combine. The only arguable difference? The “very” has been removed from “early stages.”
Regardless of where things currently stand, here’s where they’re heading: Toward a franchise tag of $26.4 million in 2018, if a deal isn’t done before then.
Although Stafford will be making a Glennonesque $16.5 million in 2017, Stafford’s cap number sits at $22 million for this year, which entitles him to a 20-percent raise via the tag in 2018. Ditto for 2019, when he’d be due to make $31.698 million. So if a new deal isn’t done before Stafford completes his current contract and shifts the injury risk back to the team, Stafford should expect $58 million fully guaranteed over the following two seasons as part of a long-term deal.
Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins has provided to all other players a clear example of what quarterbacks can do if they’re willing to go year to year. For Stafford, a year-to-year approach means $26.4 million in 2018 then $31.698 million in 2019 and then either a 44-percent raise for a third tag ($45.64 million) or a 20-percent raise for the transition tag ($38 million) or Stafford hits the market unfettered and unrestricted in 2021.
If the Lions want to avoid that scenario, they need to get out of the “early stages” at some point before the end of the 2017 season.