Last week, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford signed a new contract with two years left on his rookie deal. Careful inspection of the details of the new agreement suggests that the Lions most likely will need to extend the deal once again in only three years.
The fairly obvious clues come from the cap numbers. After $17.8 million in 2013, $15.8 million in 2014, and $17.7 million in 2015, the charge spikes to $22.5 million in 2016 and $22 million in 2017.
Absent a dramatic increase in the salary cap by 2016, $22.5 million will remain too much for the Lions to carry under Stafford’s name, especially with Calvin Johnson’s second contract (and, possibly, Ndamukong Suh’s) on the books.
By 2016, Stafford will have earned $43 million. Which means that he traded $23.5 million in non-guaranteed cash over the next three years for an extra $19.5 million, with all $43 million essentially guaranteed. (Technically, only $41.5 million of the new contract is guaranteed, but there are no offsets as to any of the guaranteed money, which means as a practical matter he’ll get the full $43 million.)
The question then becomes how much the Lions will give Stafford in guaranteed money as he trades in $33.5 million in non-guaranteed pay he’s due to earn in 2016 and 2017.
Either way, he’ll be with the Lions over the long haul, and he’ll emerge in three years $43 million richer. That’s not much less than he would have made by playing out his contract and spending one year under the franchise tag, but none of it was guaranteed before last week. Now, he’s destined to pocket another $43 million.