How much is Matthew Stafford worth?

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NFL: Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints
Dec 4, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) celebrates after throwing a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Lions defeated the Saints 28-13. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

There has been quite the controversy lately as to how much Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford should be paid. With only one year left on his contract, Stafford is set up to be extended this offseason. Many media and NFL analysts have him projected to be the highest paid player in the entire league. At first glance, it seems preposterous that a player with such minimal playoff success could land such a lucrative deal.

How can Stafford make more per year than all the Super Bowl winning quarterbacks? First of all, football is a team sport. Second, with the continuously growing salary cap, a franchise quarterback will always be paid more than whatever the last franchise QB received from the year before and so on. A bigger contract does not always mean a player is better than someone who is paid less.

Long story short, as the salary cap increases, so do the contracts.

The money available in the market dictates the amount a quarterback will get paid.

It’s pretty simple how to determine the price range of what Matthew Stafford will cost. It comes down to the percentage of the salary cap, not by comparing to other outdated QB contracts. The price of an upper echelon quarterback has remained around 15-16% of the total salary cap. There is no reason to expect Stafford accepting anything less than 15%. He already took a slight discount on his last contract using only 14% of that year’s cap.

If anything, the last regime failed by only extending Stafford until the end of the 2017 season. They could have locked him in at his below-average price for another three years.

Stafford currently has the 18th highest yearly average salary despite being a top-10 quarterback.

For comparison, look at the chart below and at the percentage of the salary cap that each quarterback consumed. It’s a way to even the playing field for how much each QB is actually getting paid relative to which year they signed their contract.

(Yes, Tom Brady is a major outlier and is a conversation for another day.)

As you can tell, Stafford would fall into the 2nd-teir range with guys Luck, Palmer, and Brees. The aforementioned QBs are similar in talent and all received the 15% salary cap number. Each case will be unique when it comes to contracts, but when dealing in millions, a half a million here and there is chump change in the grand scheme of things.

If Stafford does indeed get on the lower side of the projection (15%), he will still be the highest paid player in the NFL by default (Andrew Luck-$24,594,000). Honestly, Stafford could get the 16% mark and no questions would be asked.

It’s time to stop looking at other QBs contracts that were drawn up years ago and pay Stafford what he is worth right now–the highest paid player in the league. Next year, another franchise QB (Matt Ryan) will come through and blow Stafford’s contract out of the water.