The Detroit Lions have signed Matthew Stafford to a 3 year, $53 million extension with $43 million in guaranteed money. The deal itself may look like a bargain when held in relation to Joe Flacco's 6 year, $120.6 million deal -- but the guaranteed money makes Stafford's deal better. Now the Panthers will wait for Cam Newton's extension to arrive.
The NFL's rookie pay scale was an equalizer to protect bad teams for whiffing on draft picks. Spiraling rookie contracts made top picks untenable, and the changes in the CBA ensured that veterans got a bigger piece of the pie. This was great for teams picking at the top of the draft, and the Panthers were the first team to benefit from holding the no.1 overall pick under the scale, but it meant that in hitting a home run they set themselves up for the mammoth pay day.
Compare Stafford and Newton from a statistical perspective, keeping in mind the former has been in the league two years longer.
Stafford: 12,807 passing yards (59.8% completion), 6.87 YPA, 87 total TD, 55 total turnovers, 82.8 QB rating
Newton: 7,920 passing yards (58.9% completion), 7.90 YPA, 62 total TD, 30 total turnovers, 85.3 QB rating
The argument against Newton getting Flacco money was the lack of a Super Bowl ring, but the new Stafford deal validates that NFL teams don't care. By committing $43 million in guaranteed money the Lions have saddled themselves with Stafford for better, or for worse -- and this is a quarterback whose won just 17 games as a starter. Heck, Newton's already won 13.
Assume the Panthers go 8-8 in each of the next two years, he's still ahead of where Stafford is -- and quarterback salaries aren't going down. It's reasonable to assume that the Panthers will take a longer, Flacco approach to the deal that the mid-contract extension the Lions did.
Extrapolate the two recent deals and you have a situation where the Panthers will likely be paying something in the range of $17-18 million per year, with at least 75% of the contract guaranteed. Talk to an agent and they'll tell you that total money is for posturing, guaranteed money is where it's important.
Joe Flacco has $52 million in guarantees, Stafford has $43 million. Newton will command something in that $48-55 million in guaranteed money. This will necessitate Dave Gettleman freeing up $10-12 million in cap space alone, and work from there.
Cam Newton is worth it, lets get that out of the way now -- but the Stafford extension has an ancillary effect on what moves the organization can make in future free agencies. Earlier today we talked about Greg Hardy or Hakeem Nicks -- the truth is, there might not be room for either. It's the reality of striking gold in the draft, and the Panthers are guaranteed to be doing it again with Luke Kuechly soon, and possibly Star Lotulelei after that.