There is a new highest paid player in the NFL, and many people believe that it is not deserved. Matthew Stafford signed a 5-year deal worth $135 million on Monday, meaning Stafford will make an average annual salary of $27 million a year, more than ex-highest paid player Derek Carr ($25 million). Since the news was released Monday, many football fans have been up in arms about the contract Stafford received, but I believe the contract is more than justified.
The first reason why Stafford deserves this contract is that he is not guaranteed all $135 million of it. Let’s look at his contract. Stafford could make $27 million a year, but only $12.1 million of that is guaranteed. This means that only 44.8% of his contract is guaranteed every year. So of the other quarterbacks, who is making more guaranteed money than Stafford? Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins, Joe Flacco, Aaron Rodgers, Carson Palmer, and Tom Brady make more, and the list doesn’t end there. So even though it looks like Stafford is making more money than everyone else, by digging into his contract, we can see that he still has to earn this money by playing up to the contract.
The second reason why Stafford deserves this contract is because his play shows it. People might look at that last point and say well duh, those quarterbacks are all better than Stafford. Let me say this, we live in a sports world where it is ‘what have you done for me lately,’ not ‘what did you do for me five or ten years ago’ or so on. So let’s take Drew Brees for example. Many people will argue and say they would rather have Brees than Stafford, and I’m not here to argue that, but I am here to argue Brees has not been any better than Stafford in the recent years. The New Orleans Saints have only been to the playoffs one time in the last five years. How many times have the Lions been to the playoffs in that span? Twice. The Saints have only had one winning record in the past five season. How many have the Lions had? Two.
Now people will complain and say that Brees has had minimal help from his defense in the past five years, ranking 25th in points against. Well, the Lions defense ranks 16th, yes better than the Saints defense, but still not helpful for Stafford. So we can see that no matter how good you are as a quarterback, if you don’t have a serviceable defense, it is hard to carry a team. I also want to mention Derek Carr’s contract. Do we all remember when Derek Carr signed his contract worth $25 million per year and became the highest paid player in the NFL? I sure do, and what I remember most is that people said he deserved the contract based off of what he did the previous season. But what did Carr do his first two seasons in the NFL? Oh that’s right, led the Raiders to two losing seasons! Now, I’m not saying that Carr does not deserve his contract, because I believe he is going to be a star in this league, but people did not complain about his contract even though he still has not proven to us that he can take the Raiders to the next level.
The last reason why Stafford deserves this contract is because of what he has done for the Lions franchise. The NFL has become a system where the next quarterback to get paid will be the richest, but in today’s NFL, it is so difficult to find a franchise quarterback that you can trust and will win football games. So when you have one, you need to keep them. That is what Matthew Stafford is for the Lions. Stafford has been in the NFL for nine years, accumulating three winnings seasons for the Lions. In the nine seasons prior to Stafford getting drafted by Detroit, they have only one winning season. Albeit Stafford has yet to win a playoff game, but he has gotten the Lions to the playoffs three times. How many times were the Lions in the playoffs the nine seasons before Stafford was drafted? A big fat goose egg! Now I get it, Stafford has not been the best quarterback in the NFL, but he has been a savior for the Lions. In the past six seasons, Stafford is one of only two quarterbacks to throw for over 4,200 yards. In those six seasons, Stafford has a +81 touchdown-to-interception differential. Two-time Super Bowl champ Eli Manning: only +62.
Look, Stafford is not better than Brady or Rodgers, he may not even be better than Luck or Wilson, but don’t you think the Broncos or the Browns would be more than happy to have Matthew Stafford running their offense right now? I think so! The NFL is weird, the next quarterback up will always be the highest-paid player. Next offseason, we will probably be saying the same things when Kirk Cousins becomes the highest-paid player, all because he was the next man up to be paid. Contracts are tricky, on the surface it looks like a lot of money, but when you dig deeper, you can see that Stafford still has to earn his money. His performance over the next five years will determine how much of that $135M contract he earns.
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