One day in the not-so-distant future, Matthew Stafford could become the highest-paid player in the NFL.
The Detroit Lions quarterback enters the offseason with one year left on a five-year, $76.5 million contract signed in 2013. Stafford said Monday he has not opened talks with the team's brass about an extension and is not worried about getting a new deal.
"I'm not going to deal with hypotheticals, man," Stafford said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. "If they come to me, they come to me. If they don't, they don't. I'll talk to you guys about it then."
The eight-year pro is slated to make $16.5 million in 2017, with a $22 million cap hit, per OverTheCap.com.
A product of the pre-rookie wage scale, Stafford's current contract puts him in an advantageous position to blast past Andrew Luck's league-high $24.6 million-per-year average. With the quarterback owning all the leverage at the scarcest position in sports, a new deal could soar above the $25 million plateau.
Stafford, who turns 29 next month, was asked if he'd be interested in signing a new extension this offseason.
"That's not up to me," he said. "It's up to the people upstairs and the Fords and whether they want to or not. It's not on the forefront of my mind at the moment. Got a lot of things going on personally that are important to me, so figure that out when I need to."
Rejuvenated under offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, Stafford was on pace for career-best marks in completion percentage and passer rating before a combination of improved competition and a Week 14 middle finger injury caused his season to tatter down the stretch. With Jim Caldwell and Cooter returning next season, the expectations for Stafford will take another leap.
The quarterback's contract situation will likely get little attention outside of Detroit until he signs a massive new deal this offseason or if the Lions are forced to franchise tag him next year. Any screams of awe, slacked jaws, or snark emanated from the fish bowl when Stafford signs a potentially record-setting deal will reveal those not paying attention. If it comes to pass, expect exclamations fixated on a win-loss record that isn't a true indicator of the quarterback's value.
Stafford, holder of no fewer than 10 team passing records, owns all the leverage. He doesn't have to worry about when negotiations start or when he will get paid. Sooner or later Detroit will be forced to pony up for the best quarterback they've known since Bobby Layne was sent packing in 1958.