Maximizing Stafford's talents

To take the next step, Lions QB must curb overreliance on Megatron

Updated: July 11, 2013, 12:16 PM ET
By Chris Sprow | ESPN Insider

Matthew Stafford Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesMatthew Stafford took a step back last season, and too much of a good thing was one reason.

There are a couple of misconceptions that need to be put to rest after Matthew Stafford signed a three-year contract extension Tuesday worth $53 million, with $41.5 million in guarantees.

No. 1: The Lions just doubled down on Stafford and made a major new commitment.

That's just not true. The Lions were going to be on the hook for a cap hit of $20.8 million in 2013 based on the previous deal, and about $19.8 million next season. If they didn't do an extension now, they were facing an ugly combination of a QB who was going to cost them a ton of money and limit flexibility over a two-year stretch when the GM and coaches know their jobs are on the line, and the possibility that if Stafford has a huge year in 2013, they'd lose leverage in negotiating an extension next year or the year after.

Stafford won't even turn 26 until February 2014. Even if he's merely pretty good this season, the guy knows some team is going to give him a major deal if he ever becomes a free agent. Just look at the cap number for Joe Flacco toward the end of his new deal and you'll get an idea of what Detroit is trying to avoid in the leverage game.

You can blame the old rookie salary structure -- and the Detroit front office knows that all too well -- but the Lions already were pretty committed. This deal isn't a double down; it's more like a pot-committed bet. (This is another good perspective on the money.)

No. 2: The Lions have just signaled they're extremely committed to the Stafford-to-Megatron fantasy franchise.

That's just not true either, even if the Lions can't say it publicly.

This is the point to focus on, because if Detroit truly wants to maximize this latest commitment to Stafford and help him become a star as he enters his prime years, the Lions will need to use less Calvin Johnson -- for his sake and Stafford's -- and achieve both more balance in a traditional run-pass sense and within what should still be a stridently pass-heavy attack. Just look at the evidence.


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