After months of negotiation, the Detroit Lions announced a mega deal last night for quarterback Matthew Stafford, the largest deal in NFL history.

 

The $127 million pact on the face seems like a bad deal for the Lions. Stafford, who ranked 12th last year in quarterback efficiency rating, has never won a playoff game and is just 5-46 against winning teams in his career, but this is very much a deal that needed to be done.

Any time a good player hits the open market, his deal sets the tone for the future market and any time a quarterback is in this position, his deal is one that always makes him the highest paid player in the league. In 2013, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco received a six-year deal worth $120.6 million from Baltimore, which made him the highest paid quarterback in NFL history and although he was coming off of a Super Bowl win, he was never in the conversation as one of the best signal callers in the league. Flacco’s deal would set the market for Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan later that summer.

Stafford’s new contract is one that is definitely noticed by Mike McCartney, the agent for Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is set to enter free agency and may be leaving Washington. Much like Rodgers and Ryan, Cousins will seek a contract that tops Stafford’s deal.

But even despite Stafford’s shortcomings, he isn’t necessarily at fault. Actually, the Lions has been so successful over the past decade because of him. Detroit has not had a running back rush for more than 100 yards in a game since 2013 and the Lions have only finished higher than 23rd in rushing once – and even then they finished just 17th in the league.

Additionally, Stafford’s defense hasn’t been great either. While they were an elite-level squad in 2014, finishing second in yards and points allowed, they have been nothing more than middle-of-the-pack throughout the rest of his career.

Without a quality supporting cast, it’s hard to be consistent in the NFL, and plays a factor in the Lions inconsistency.

But even with an inconsistent team, this is the best the Lions have been in a long time. Detroit was a doormat from 2000-2010. They failed to make a single playoff appearance, only had one winning season and won five or less games seven times, including a winless 2008 campaign that allowed the Lions to own the first overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft when they selected Stafford.

The list of starting quarterbacks in Detroit before Stafford came to town is one so depressing it rivals the Browns. Between 2000-2008, Charlie Batch, Stoney Case, Ty Detmer, Mike McMahon, Joey Harrington, Jeff Garcia, Jon Kitna, Daunte Culpepper and Dan Orlovsky started at least one game for the Lions. Injuries to Stafford in his first two seasons limited him to 13 games, but he has started quarterback in every Lions game since.

Finding a franchise quarterback is an incredibly hard task in the NFL and when you fail to get one, it sets your franchise back years. Stafford had been the best quarterback in the Lions history and the front office is well aware of the torture the team endured at quarterback before they drafted Stafford. Stafford is their guy and he deserved to be paid accordingly. Now that they have locked him up, they can now focus (again) on building around him.

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