DETROIT — The Detroit Lions have opened negotiations with Matthew Stafford that could make him the highest-paid player in the NFL.
But GM Bob Quinn wasn’t about to say anything else about the talks, which are expected to protract well into the summer. A deal is expected, but not for months.
“It’s not done yet,” Quinn said Thursday night during a question-and-answer session with season-ticket holders at Ford Field. “We’re in the very early stages of talking to Matthew and his representatives.
“Matthew’s a quarterback that I want here, and he’s a quarterback that coach (Jim) Caldwell wants here, so we’re in the early stages. It takes two sides to do a deal, and we’re working toward that.”
Stafford, 29, is coming off one of the best seasons of his eight-year career. He was sixth in the league in passing yards (4,327), and did it while completing 65.3 percent of his passes — the second best season of his career — and throwing just 10 picks. That was a career low for a full season.
He also guided eight fourth-quarter comebacks, a league record, which powered the Lions’ playoff push.
And he did all of it in a season where he lost Calvin Johnson, the greatest receiver in franchise history.
“You have to respect how tough he is,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “His teammates love his leadership. And he can make every throw. And not only that, he’s just scratching the surface of where he can (be). Because typically, once you start to see gains in the fifth or sixth year, you know you got somebody who can be pretty special.”
Stafford’s big season has silenced many of his critics, though some maintain he’s not worth what it will cost to sign him. With each franchise quarterback getting more than the last these days, he could fetch more than the $24.6 million annually that Andrew Luck got from Indianapolis last year.
But Quinn says when he looks at the poor quarterback play around so much of the country, he’s reminded of just how good the Lions have it with Stafford.
“It’s interesting when we’re sitting down in draft meetings the last couple weeks and we go through every position no matter if we need one or not,” Quinn said. “And you look across the country and there’s really a lack of quarterbacks when you look at across the NFL and college football. So I think we’re fortunate situation to have Matthew as a member of our team and we’re hoping to make that a long-term thing.”