Stafford contract extension could impact future Freeman talks
Let’s begin this post by reinforcing an obvious fact: Whether Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman gets a mega contract extension after this season is largely dependent on how he plays this fall.
But if and when Freeman has the kind of season his coaches are hoping for, and his contract extension becomes a reality, you can count on it being one of the biggest contracts in franchise history.
This fact was bolstered again on Tuesday when Lions quarterback Matt Stafford signed a contract extension that includes $41.5 million in guaranteed money over the next four seasons. The new deal adds $53 million in new money to the $23.5 million Stafford had remaining on his 2009 rookie contract.
What’s that got to do with Freeman?
If you know anything about NFL contracts, you know they are negotiated using comparable players’ deals as templates. We could have a healthy debate about the merits of Stafford over Freeman – Stafford’s remarkable 41-touchdown performance in 2011 can’t be denied – but if you don’t think these two are comparable, you’re wrong.
Let’s use a rather important stat to evaluate them. Freeman’s winning percentage as a starter: .429. Stafford’s is .377. Both have been the victim of playing on rosters early in their careers that had too little talent, but the fact is Freeman’s won more games.
So, when Freeman’s agents sit down to talk about a possible deal with general manager Mark Dominik and his staff, you can rest assured Stafford’s contract is going to factor into the conversation.
Stafford’s deal is just the latest in a series of huge quarterback contracts, and it won’t be the last. It’s very possible Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who has one year remaining on his contract, could be re-signed before this season begins. That deal is going to be massive, likely richer than Stafford’s and, perhaps, more than Tony Romo’s. The Cowboys quarterback signed a six-year, $108 million deal in March.
Whatever happens, this much we know: quarterback prices are going up, not down.
All this might become somewhat moot if the Bucs opt to use the franchise tag on Freeman. But that’s no easy decision. For 2012, quarterbacks who were assigned the franchise tag would have been in line to earn more than $14 million. Under that scenario, the Bucs could not prorate any of that sum as they could on a long-term deal. That means every penny would count against the salary cap immediately, creating a potential pitfall.
Time will tell how all this unfolds, but here’s the silver lining: If these problems come into play, it means Freeman will have played well and the Bucs will want to see more.