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Lions ‘in the very early stages’ of negotiations with Matthew Stafford

The process of locking up their franchise quarterback has begun for the Detroit Lions.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

A few weeks ago at the NFL Combine, Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn noted how important it was to negotiate an extension with Matthew Stafford, who will be entering the final year of his contract in 2017. “It’s a priority,” Quinn told reporters. “I’d like to have him here long-term.”

Quinn admitted those discussion with Stafford hadn’t started yet and a “realistic timeline” does not include a done deal by April or May. However, on Monday Quinn joined DetroitLions.com’s Tori Petry for an interview and revealed that process is finally underway.

Where are the two sides in this long-term process? “In the very early stages,” Quinn told Petry. He didn’t reveal exactly whether he and Stafford’s agent had spoken or if he’s broached the topic with Stafford himself, but this is a clear progression from a few weeks ago at the combine.

However, Quinn again stressed how slow of a process this is, pointing out that these negotiations will likely take “months, not weeks.”

Stafford currently has a hefty $22 million cap hit for 2017, and that number may actually go either up or down with a long-term extension. For comparison’s sake, Andrew Luck was the most recent quarterback to sign a monster deal. Though his five-year, $122.97 million deal averages out to well over $24 million a year, the cap hits on the first two years of his contract are both below $20 million.

Stafford is bound to make a little more than Luck, but Luck’s contract extension also gives a benchmark for the timing of an agreement. Last year Luck signed his new contract on June 29, meaning we shouldn’t expect a Stafford extension for several months, just as Quinn suggested. That timing works out well for Detroit, as they’ll have an extra $5.8 million to work with (if they need it) on June 1 when DeAndre Levy’s contract comes off the books.

Even though negotiations are still in their early stages, it’s promising to see Quinn so open about his priorities and to see him already begin the process of locking up his franchise quarterback.

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