ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Matthew Stafford has more time, and money, to accomplish what the Detroit Lions drafted him to do for the franchise.
The Lions gave the standout quarterback a five-year extension worth $135 million, keeping him under contract through 2022. The franchise desperately hopes he can return the investment and help it have success in the playoffs that has been elusive.
Stafford’s contract surpassed what was — briefly — the richest deal in the league. Derek Carr signed a $125 million, five-year deal earlier this summer with the Oakland Raiders.
Detroit drafted Stafford No. 1 overall in 2009 and he has led the team’s transformation from league laughingstock to being relatively respectable. He guided them to the playoffs last season, for the third time in six seasons, but has been unable to stop a playoff drought that has lasted a quarter of a century.
And he hasn’t pushed the team any closer to winning an NFL title for the first time since 1957.
“When I was drafted here, we were obviously coming off a 0-16 season and in a lot of ways needed some new breath and some direction,” Stafford said Tuesday.
“And I was lucky and happy and honored to be a part of getting it from where it was then to where it is now. And hopefully that exponential of a jump can happen again, and we can go from where we are now to where we really want to be and that’s hoisting a Lombardi Trophy.”
Detroit, though, will need more than the 29-year-old Stafford to be the best team in the league.
Lions manager Bob Quinn insisted the lucrative deal doesn’t hurt the team’s chances of surrounding Stafford with enough talent to win.
“Yeah, there’s more money to go around,” Quinn said. “And it’s my job and the scouting department’s job and our contract people’s job to make everything fit and field the most competitive people that we can.
“And I think making this contract and doing this contract with Matthew and his representatives was one step into a long process that we’re building.”
Lions receiver Golden Tate is thankful he will be able to keep catching passes from Stafford thanks to the new deal.
“He’s proved that he is a top-tier quarterback,” Tate said. “He is an elite quarterback. He’s tough as nails. … He’s got the best arm in the league, in my opinion. His touch is great, and it’s getting better.”
Stafford’s financial portfolio is getting better, too.
He is entering the last year of his $53 million, three-year deal. After being drafted out of Georgia, he got $41.7 million in guarantees as part of a six-year contract worth $78 million.
What is Stafford going to buy with his latest contract?
“A bunch of diapers,” he joked as his wife sat nearby, holding their 5-month-old twin daughters .
After shoulder and knee injuries stunted Stafford’s first two seasons, he has been healthy and durable enough to play in every game the past six years.
He won the 2011 AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year award after throwing for more than 5,000 yards and helping the Lions end their 11-season drought of not appearing in the playoffs.
Back then, he helped the Lions become the first team in league history to rally to win four games after being down by at least 13 points, including a pair of 20-plus point comebacks.
Despite the retirement of Calvin Johnson before last season, he helped Detroit become the league’s first team to come back from fourth-quarter deficits to win eight games in a season.
“If you take a look at him and watch how he functions in the last portion of ball games that are tight, he doesn’t flinch,” Detroit coach Jim Caldwell said. “He doesn’t get nervous, and he’s gallant in those settings. So that sticks out, and I think it will be a hallmark throughout his career.”
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