Matthew Stafford has a big new contract. It's worth $53 million with $42 million in guaranteed money over three years, according to ESPN's Ed Werder. That is a lot of money. It is, in fact, within the general range of money Josh Freeman would have demanded had he received a contract extension this offseason.
In fact, Freeman and Stafford are remarkably similar. Both are immensely talented, still young quarterbacks who have some significant issues standing in the way of future success. Neither player should be enshrined as the surefire future of their franchise. But one of those players has, and the other hasn't.
Matthew Stafford has a lot of positive traits. He has one of the strongest arms in the league with a very quick release and he has put up some ridiculous yardage numbers. However, most of that has been due to volume: no NFL quarterback has thrown more passes than Matthew Stafford over the past two seasons. In fact, he led the league in attempts in both years.
The Lions had no running game, which caused that, of course. The result of such a dysfunctional offense with an undisciplined quarterback was a mess. The passing offense and Matthew Stafford were statistically below average in every statistic that doesn't depend mostly on volume. And, for those of you who think quarterback wins are a real thing rather than a very poor heuristic, Stafford is 1-23 against teams with records over .500, according to NFL.com.
That one win, of course, came against the 2010 Buccaneers. Ugh.As an intrepid commenter points out, that was Drew Stanton. That does not make it better.
None of that is to say that Stafford won't be a good quarterback. But, like Freeman, he has his issues, and those issues must be solved if he's to live up to this contract. The Lions' hand was more or less forced because of the demands of Matthew Stafford's rookie contract, an issue the Bucs don't have with Freeman, and that situation gave Stafford some extra leverage to boot.
Freeman wouldn't have received exactly that contract, but it does give us some idea of the kind of money the Bucs would have had to pay for him to agree to an extension. And, given Freeman's issues, I'm fairly certain he would not have been worth it.
Instead, they'll give Josh Freeman this season to prove himself. If he does, they will use all of their cap room to give him a very, very big extension. And if he doesn't, well, at least they won't be burdened by his contract.