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Lions roundtable: Will Detroit sign Matthew Stafford to a contract extension before the start of 2017?

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The preseason is closer to its end than its beginning, but Matthew Stafford is still without a contract extension. Does Detroit sign its franchise quarterback before the start of the 2017 season?

NFL: New York Jets at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks of preseason down, two more to go as the start of regular season football is right around the corner.

If you’re unfamiliar with our roundtable or how it works, check out some of our recent discussions:

Our roundtable here at Pride of Detroit has reconvened. The topic this week is one that seems to be garnering some attention from the national media: Matthew Stafford, and whether or not he signs a contract extension with the Lions before the beginning of the 2017 season.

On Tuesday, Bill Barnwell of ESPN published a piece examining the similarities between Detroit’s dilemma with Matthew Stafford and when the Baltimore Ravens made the move to shell out for Joe Flacco.

Which brings us to our roundtable discussion for this week:

Will Detroit sign Matthew Stafford to a contract extension before the start of 2017?

Jeremy: A few weeks back, I went on Facebook Live and said to a “captive” audience of 30 or 40 people that they can freely call me an idiot if Stafford didn’t sign a contract before the start of training camp.

Well, I was an idiot. And in true idiot form, I’m doubling down. Matthew Stafford will sign a contract that will average out to $28 million per year on September 5, 2017 at approximately 8 a.m. ET. I will be simultaneous elated for the news and irritated for waking up at 5 a.m. PT.

Someone tell me I’m wrong.

Kent Lee: Wrong only in that it is a very specific time to set. As much as people want to say "Let him play this season and if he does well, extend him next year,” Stafford is the cheapest he will ever be right now.

If Stafford plays well now, he will be more expensive next year. If he plays poorly, his price won't drop past "Still the highest-paid ever." If Lions sign him now, it won't tie up the cap the way it would have in previous years, the team will be set up well and have their QB.

Jeremy: We’ve said this repeatedly over and over again, but it bears repeating. Matthew Stafford’s agent, Tom Condon, has made a living out of negotiating last-minute deals for top-tier quarterbacks. From Mike Payton’s article three weeks ago:

History will show us that Tom Condon is more likely to get deals done for his quarterbacks in the 25th hour before the season starts. His last three extension’s are as follows:

Alex Smith signed a four-year extension with Chiefs on August 31, 2014—seven days before their first game.

Eli Manning agreed to a four-year extension of his own on September 11, 2015—two days before their first game.

Drew Brees signed an extension on September 7, 2016—four days before their first game.

While I concede Chris’ point that we don’t actually know anything that’s happening and that can be scary, there is plenty of precedent here to feel confident something will get done in that final week before the regular season.

Chris: My point was originally about the personal angle to the recent Lions developments that could impact Stafford and it blossomed as I remembered Kirk Cousins and my own mortality. Either way, I’d be cautious to think that just because the Lions are willing to pay him whatever that that’ll be the case. If he’s set on going somewhere else—for whatever reason—he’ll go somewhere else and there’s nothing that will change his mind, or any reason why such information will be made public until he’s out the door.

For the most part, I think it gets done, but I’m not going to be gung-ho about it.

Ryan: It’s not a done deal, and that makes Lions fans anxious.

When news breaks that there’s a “substantial gap” between the two negotiating parties, that makes Lions fans anxious.

Good thing I’m a Browns fan because none of this is fazing me in the least bit.

Jeremy: I’m not at all worried about the “substantial gap.” Deadlines spur actions, and that gap can (and will) be closed quickly when both sides are up against the start of the regular season.

Kyle: I do think that a deal gets done before the start of the season, but just to give a different perspective, I would not be that surprised if the Lions and Stafford were not able to work anything out in the next few weeks. Stafford clearly has all of the leverage here, so even if he wants to stay in Detroit—which I believe that he does—there is no rush for him to sign anything.

As Kent mentioned before, even a poor performance this season or some sort of injury is not going to completely ruin his ability to sign elsewhere, continuing to put pressure on the Lions. To sign before the season, Stafford would either want to be free of distractions or do his team a solid. Financially, he has every motivation to wait it out. I believe that Stafford genuinely wants to stay and help this franchise, but it would be hard to blame him for making the right financial decision.

Chris: We talked about this a few podcasts ago, but the free market for quarterbacks has the potential to be the most insane expenditure blind to measured value since Ronald Reagan announced Star Wars. For the last ten years or so the only quarterbacks you could pick off in free agency were chuds like Ryan Fitzpatrick and Case Keenum. In all that time the position has gotten even more important and long-term prospects harder to find. If Stafford hits the open market, that $30 million/year figure could look like a floor, not a ceiling.

So yeah, I agree with Kyle. Stafford has all the leverage here, regardless of how he does in 2017. It’s almost too much leverage to safely say he’ll sign before the season.

Jeremy: Alright, let’s wrap this up nice and neat. Everyone, give me your confidence level that a deal will get done before the regular season.

I’m at 90 percent.

Chris: If you think about it there’s a 50 percent chance of anything happening.

Kyle: I’ll go around 64 percent.

Ryan: Stafford is going to be the quarterback for the Detroit Lions for the rest of his career, and I think nobody wants that more than Bob Quinn. He had to recognize the rebuild process in Detroit was going to be accelerated with a franchise quarterback in place.

Dragging these negotiations out over the course of the season and risking the messiness of a franchise tag situation—as new addition to the site Chris Perfett pointed out—would only damage that relationship.

I’m saying there’s a 100 percent chance this deal is done before the start of the 2017 regular season.

Kent Lee: I'm spitballing around 84.327 percent certain a deal gets done.