“Matt has taken this situation with his contract in stride,” Quinn said Saturday, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “It doesn’t bother him, it doesn’t me. I’m confident we’ll get something done. There’s a long way to go on that, but it’s good on both sides.”
Frankly, it shouldn’t take much time to get a deal done. The math is simple. The math doesn’t favor the team, but the math is simple.
Stafford has $16.5 million this year, and he’s in line for a franchise tag of $26.4 million next year, a franchise tag of $31.68 million for 2019, and a franchise tag of $45.162 million for 2020. That’s nearly $120 million over four years, if Stafford chooses to take it one year at a time — and if the Lions choose not to expose Stafford to the open market by not applying the franchise tag in 2018, 2019, or 2020.
So here’s the question: What will it take to get Stafford to trade in the ability to make nearly $120 million through 2020 on a long term deal that would commit him (presumably) through 2020 or beyond? The deeper question is whether he’s willing to give the team a discount in that calculation.
The overriding question is why should he? At a time when more and more NFL players are waking up to the disparity between NFL and NBA pay, why should NFL players even consider doing that which NBA players rarely if ever do, taking less than their leverage dictates under the guise of helping the team pay other players?
As guys like Peyton Manning and Darrelle Revis firmly believed, it’s the team’s obligation to manage the salary cap. The 2011 labor deal makes that easier than ever by locking young players in to substandard deals and allowing teams that know how to properly pick rookies load up the roster with cheap talent.
The last time he negotiated a new deal with the Lions, Stafford didn’t push his leverage as far as he could have. This time, maybe he should. Given Quinn’s comments, maybe Stafford already is — and maybe the Lions have decided to simply wait it out in the hopes that Stafford changes his mind.