DETROIT — The Detroit Lions have been open about their ongoing negotiations with quarterback Matthew Stafford, and it’s possible they will sign him to an extension that could make him the highest-paid player in NFL history.
When Lions president Rod Wood was asked on Tuesday if he was comfortable with that, he responded that he wants to get a deal done.
“I’m comfortable in getting a deal done with him, and we’ll see where that ends up,” Wood told ESPN. “It’s going to be whatever it takes, I think, to make it happen from both sides, and whether he becomes the highest-paid or not, it’ll be a short-lived designation because, as [general manager] Bob [Quinn] said, and I think it’s true, if you’re in the top whatever of quarterbacks, when your time comes up, your time comes up and then somebody else’s time comes up, and they become the highest-[paid player].
“It’s a premium position, and you need to have a very, very good player at that position to be credible and be competitive, and I think we do have that, and we’re working on getting a deal done.”
Stafford is one of three quarterbacks, along with Washington’s Kirk Cousins and Oakland’s Derek Carr, who could get deals done this summer that could make them the NFL’s highest-paid player. Stafford said last week during Detroit’s minicamp that he’s “not too worried” about what happens with Carr and Cousins, and he’s focused more on his own improvement … and winning.
Quinn told Sirius XM NASCAR Radio with Claire B. Lang this weekend that he was “confident” a deal would get done but that there was nothing new to report otherwise. Quinn has said deals like this typically get done in the summer, but last week, Stafford said he had no timetable.
The 29-year-old quarterback, who’s in the final year of his contract, is the franchise record-holder in almost every significant passing category. Last season he threw for 4,327 yards and 24 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. “It’s being worked on, and I agree with everything that Matthew’s said, too,” Wood said. “That he’s focused on winning and not his deal.”
Wood said he is more involved with this contract than others, in part, because of the money involved. Stafford could command more than $25 million a year in his extension. Wood said he’s not as involved in the actual negotiations with Stafford’s agent, Tom Condon, but more with the internal discussions the franchise has about a potential contract.
Wood declined to speak about the organization’s current relationship with Stafford’s former star receiver, Calvin Johnson, who said last month he “didn’t feel I was treated the way I should have been treated on the way out.”
Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he — and the organization — was concerned to hear about Johnson’s unhappiness, but he hoped things would work out over time and that they can create an open dialogue with their former star receiver. “This is one area I’m not going to get into,” Wood said. “I’ll just say I agree with everything Jim said when he talked about it, that just because things are out there, it has not come from us. I’m bothered by it, and Mrs. [Martha] Ford is bothered by it, and it’ll get fixed over time. That’s all I’m going to say. I’m not going to get into it.”
Wood also wouldn’t say much about the Ford family’s succession plan for ownership — a topic that has come up multiple times over the past three years. The Lions and Fords have consistently been quiet on the subject, and Wood said it is because the family prefers it that way.
“It’s confidential,” Wood said. “Having spent most of my life on the side of working with wealthy families on their planning, it’s a very personal matter, and it’s confidential within the family at this point.
“But as I said in the very first press conference, there is a plan to keep the team in the family. We’ve fully complied with what the NFL’s rules are in terms of informing them of the plans, and when it happens, we’ll announce it and talk about it. There’s no reason to keep it a secret other than that is what the family prefers.”
All four of Ford’s children are listed as the franchise’s vice chairmen, although the most visible Ford heir in recent years has been Sheila Ford Hamp. Bill Ford Jr., the son of Martha and the late William Clay Ford Sr., had been the team’s vice chairman since 1995 but took a lesser role in recent years as his job with the family’s main business, the Ford Motor Co., continued to expand.
Wood did say there are no plans to sell the team and they’re building toward keeping the Fords as team owners. When asked if there have been any talks about selling the team, Wood said no, and he pointed to the fact that the franchise has been family-owned for the past 53 years.