Matthew Stafford will be the Detroit Lions’ No. 1 overall draft pick after agreeing Friday night to a six-year deal that NFL.com’s Steve Wyche reports will pay the quarterback $41.7 million in guarantees and could be worth as much as $78 million.
Tom Condon and Ben Dogra, who both represent Stafford, confirmed the terms of the deal to The Associated Press.
Quarterback Matt Ryan, the No. 3 pick in last year’s draft, received a six-year, $72 million contract, with $34.75 million guaranteed, from the Atlanta Falcons.
The Lions desperately need a quarterback to help turn around the NFL’s first 0-16 team, which has had the worst eight-year stretch in the league since World War II, and is turning to Stafford after he was a starter in each of his three seasons at the University of Georgia.
The Lions will formally take Stafford with the No. 1 pick in the draft Saturday. They also will have more chances to rebuild their roster with the 20th overall selection, one second-round pick and two third-round selections.
Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said earlier in the week the chances were “very good” that an agreement would be reached with the No. 1 pick before the draft begins.
On the eve of the draft, the lucrative deal was done.
Stafford always seemed to be Plan A, but Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry and Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith apparently were backup options.
Stafford will not be able to fix all the problems associated with a franchise that has been bad enough to go 31-97 since 2001 in what has been the worst eight-year stretch by an NFL team since the Chicago Cardinals won 23 percent of their games from 1936 to 1943. But the Lions can’t afford to draft another bust.
“Obviously, the draft is the biggest crap shoot there is,” Stafford recently acknowledged.
Recent No. 1 picks have proven that. Eight of the past 11 players taken first overall in the NFL have been quarterbacks, and half of them either haven’t or didn’t pan out for the teams that took them. For every Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer, guys such as Tim Couch and David Carr have shown there are no guarantees.
Stafford might have a chance to initially learn from the sidelines in Detroit, backing up veteran quarterback Daunte Culpepper.
First-year Lions coach Jim Schwartz has said his staff extensively studied Stafford on film.
“We’ve seen every pass he’s thrown in the last two years, and that’s where you learn about his decision-making ability,” Schwartz said last month.
The Lions also interviewed Stafford, attended his pro day at Georgia and had a private workout with him to learn more about him as a person. Apparently, they’re convinced that Stafford is the man to be the face, voice and arm of perhaps the biggest rebuilding project in NFL history.
Just before Schwartz was hired in Detroit this offseason, he joked that it was about time to replace Bobby Layne, who starred at quarterback for the Lions when they were an NFL power in the 1950s. In a coincidence, Stafford and Layne both played at Highland Park High School in Dallas.