Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford: $25M contract demand 'news to me'
A year ago, some people in and around the Detroit Lions organization wondered what the future would hold for Matthew Stafford.
When the Lions got off to a 1-7 start and seemed destined for a top NFL draft pick, one school of thought was that it would be better for the team to trade its enigmatic quarterback and start fresh with a new signal caller.
But Stafford played some of the best football of his career in the second half of last season, and now, after shepherding the Lions to five come-from-behind victories in nine games this year, seems headed for a nine-figure contract extension at some point next summer.
CBS Sports reported over the weekend that Stafford, who is signed through 2017, will seek $25 million annually on his next deal, a number that would make him the highest-paid player in the NFL.
And while that's the natural progression in quarterback contracts around the league -- the Indianapolis Colts' Andrew Luck signed a five-year extension worth $24.6 million per season earlier this year -- Stafford downplayed the number at his weekly news conference today.
"That was news to me, to tell you the truth," Stafford said. "Hadn’t, obviously, had any thoughts of that in my mind, to tell you the truth. I don’t know where that came from or how it got out there, but I’m focused on our team, this season, playing well this week. That’s really all I care about."
Stafford said three years ago, when he signed an extension, that he did so in part to get a third contract before he turned 30 years old.
Still just 28, Stafford did not directly answer a question today about how important it is for him to be the highest-paid player in the NFL, though he said he hoped to stay with the team that made him the No. 1 pick of the 2009 draft.
"It’s not up to me," Stafford said. "I’d love to -- I want to play football for as long as I can. Would obviously love to be here."
That Stafford has played so well over the last 18 games means he likely will be a Lion for the foreseeable future.
Stafford is completing a career-best 67.3% of his passes with a 101.6 passer rating this season. He has thrown 18 touchdowns against just five interceptions. And if not for his late-game heroics, the Lions wouldn't be anywhere near their current perch atop the NFC North.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell today declined to address a possible contract extension for Stafford, saying his only concern is Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars (1 p.m., CBS) and that those are "things that obviously, from a front-office standpoint, they’ll deal with that issue."
Lions general manager Bob Quinn told the Free Press in a sit-down interview in August that he planned to evaluate Stafford's play this season before starting talks on a new deal. At time, Quinn said it was important "for Matthew to kind of take that next step, take the team, put them on his shoulders and kind of lead us to that improvement that we’ve talked about" in order to get a third contract with the team.
“I think it’s pretty evident how well he’s played (this year)," Caldwell said today. "So let’s leave it at that, and we’re going to try to work to see if we can get it done again this week. And I think he’d tell you the same thing."
In all likelihood, Stafford will sign a lengthy extension at some point this off-season.
Quinn, in 10 months on the job, already has shown the willingness to lock up key players to long-term extensions a year before they hit free agency. Darius Slay, Theo Riddick, Sam Martin and, most recently, Don Carey signed new contracts this year.
Stafford, who has made more than $110 million to this point in his NFL career, said he's "not worried about" his next contract and that a new deal will "take care of itself" in due time.
He did, however, crack a smile when asked how his play has impacted his long-term future in Detroit, given the questions he endured last year.
“I don’t know," he said. "It’s not up for me to speculate. That’s for you guys to write about and talk about. For me, it’s always just been on to the next week. Work as hard as you can, try to play as well as you can, and I do that -- no offense to you guys, but for the guys in that locker room. Not for a story written here or there or whatever. Just try to play as well as I can for my teammates, coaches, guys who put in a ton of hard work and hours into winning games."
Contact Dave Birkett: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.