The value of an elite quarterback is something that many people aren’t even willing to debate. “Pay him whatever he wants,” fans often say of their franchise quarterback, especially if they just won their team a superbowl.
Of course, if you can get one of the best quarterbacks in the league on a rookie contract, you’ve basically found the Game Genie of building an NFL team, and will undoubtedly see some immediate success.
Otherwise, the way the NFL works is simply this: If you have a top-10 quarterback in this league, you’re going to pay him like a top-5 quarterback, maybe even a top-one quarterback, and that means, today, shelling out at least $30 million a year.
And that why Matthew Stafford comes in at No. 4 on our list of top salary cap bargains for the 2020 Detroit Lions.
Reminder: This list is only based on 2020 cap hits, not the entirety of the contract. Additionally, no 2020 rookies are included in the list, since several remain unsigned.
4. Matthew Stafford
2020 cap hit: $21.3 million
2020 cap hit ranking: 14th among quarterbacks
Matthew Stafford’s contract is extremely affordable for one very simple reason. He signed his extension three years ago. This also happens to be the cheapest year on his deal aside from the season he signed the contract. Next year, his cap hit jumps to $33 million, which is currently slated to be the seventh-highest cap number for 2021 among quarterbacks.
But just look at some of the quarterbacks ahead of Stafford in 2020 cap hit: Jared Goff ($28.8M), Jimmy Garoppolo ($26M), Philip Rivers ($25M), Ryan Tannehill ($22.5), Derek Carr ($21.5M), Alex Smith ($21.4M), Jacoby Brissett ($21.4M). I think it’s safe to say that Stafford is better than most, if not all, of these quarterbacks listed.
Not convinced? Let’s take statistics from the past three seasons:
Stafford: 65.6 comp. %, 7.6 Y/A, 97.0 passer rating, 69 TDs, 26 INTs
Goff: 63.3 comp. %, 7.9 Y/A, 95.4 passer rating, 82 TDs, 35 INTs
Garoppolo: 67.6 comp. %, 8.4 Y/A, 99.2 passer rating, 39 TDs, 21 INTs
Rivers: 65.5 comp. %, 8.0 Y/A, 96.2 passer rating, 83 TDs, 42 INTs
Tannehill: 67.3 comp. %, 8.4 Y/A, 105.4 passer rating, 39 TDs, 15 INTs
Carr: 67.4 comp. %, 7.3 Y/A, 93.7 passer rating, 62 TDs, 31 INTs
Smith: 65.5 comp. %, 7.4 Y/A, 97.2 passer rating, 36 TDs, 10 INTs
Brissett: 59.8 comp. %, 6.6 Y/A, 84.6 passer rating, 31 TDs, 13 INTs
Aside from Garoppolo and Tannehill, Stafford has put up stats better than everyone else on that list.
And as we all saw last year, he took his game to an even higher level when paired up with Darrell Bevell’s aggressive downfield passing attack. While his three-year average for yards per attempt was just 7.6, it was 8.6 in 2019 alone. In fact, if we just go by last year’s stats, Stafford bests everyone on the list with the exception of Ryan Tannehill.
Of course, Stafford only played in eight games last season, and it remains to be seen if he could keep up that kind of pace for a full season. This year, however, he has an even more impressive supporting cast of weapons. If the Lions’ patchwork offensive line can keep it together for four months, Stafford could be one of the biggest bargains among all NFL quarterbacks in 2020. Obviously, there are guys on their rookie contracts—Kyler Murray ($8.1M), Lamar Jackson ($2.6M), Daniel Jones ($5.9M)—that have ridiculously valuable contracts, but among those not on their first NFL contracts, Stafford’s looks quite nice for the upcoming season.
Top 10 Detroit Lions salary cap values for 2020: