Tim and Mike: Is Matthew Stafford's contract a big deal?

Posted Jun 19, 2013

Tim and Mike discuss hot topics including where Calvin Johnson will land in the NFL's Top 100 players and comments from John Clayton regarding the Lions' pass rush

The NFL offseason is as quiet as it ever gets. Mini-camps are over and players are off until the start of the regular season.

That doesn't mean there aren't things to talk about, including with the Lions.

The status of negotiations on a contract for quarterback Matthew Stafford is a popular point for discussions. So is where Calvin Johnson will rank in the NFL Network's Top 100 Players for 2013.

"Hard Knocks" is back in August, and ESPN's John Clayton expressed his opinion that the Lions' pass rush could hurt the team.

Start with Stafford. Is his contract situation a big deal?

Matthew StaffordQB Matthew Stafford

Mike: Yes, it's a big deal, but it always is with a starting quarterback -- especially one who is entrenched as the starter for a long time.

I've said all along, that at this stage of Stafford's contract, both sides should try to maximize the timing of striking a new deal. On the Lions' side, the primary goal is to sign Stafford to a long-term deal. That part is going to happen.

The Lions also should sign him to get maximum relief on their salary-cap. To me, that time is next year, when they can make another strong push in the free agent market.

Salary cap room is not as important this year. The Lions have all of their draft picks signed, and there aren't any priority free agents available.

If both sides want to do a deal before the start of the season, that's fine. But the real urgency is next year, when Stafford goes into the last year of his contract.

Tim: The Lions have their roster pretty much set and they're under the cap -- with a little room to spare -- for 2013.

It would be nice to lock up the quarterback they've identified as the franchise's leader for the foreseeable future just so it's out of the way, but really it's something that can wait until next offseason, if needed.

The Lions will undoubtedly want to re-up with some of their own free agents next offseason and continue to hit the open market as well. That's when they'll need the salary cap relief a new deal with Stafford would likely provide.

I don't think there's anyone who thinks a deal won't get done, it's just a matter of timing and neither side is up against a wall.

At least they don't have to worry about Calvin Johnson, who still remains unnamed in the NFL Network's top 100 players list, which is down to it's top 20.

Where does Johnson belong?

Mike: You can make an argument for a handful of guys as the top player in the league, and Calvin's in that handful.

Calvin JohnsonWR Calvin Johnson

The real question is where Calvin ranks among non-quarterbacks, because the premium is on quarterbacks. If you want to rank all 32 quarterbacks as the 32 top players, that's fine. The real decision comes after that.

If you want to make a defensive player No. 1, that's fine, too. But if it's an offensive player who doesn't play quarterback, the choice is between Adrian Peterson and Calvin and nobody else.

There might be a personal preference for a quarterback, defensive player or the best running back in the game, but there isn't another player who's as physically superior as Megatron. That's a bold statement, but it's true.

Tim: Last year, Johnson finished No. 3 behind quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. I think that's right about where he belongs this year, but I'd probably have Rodgers and Tom Brady in front of him.

No single player affects the way a defense plays a team like Megatron. He's just better than everyone else; it's as simple as that.

You could certainly make a case for Adrian Peterson to be up there, too, and there'd be little argument, but Johnson, in my opinion, is the best non-quarterback in the league.

News broke this week that the Cincinnati Bengals will be featured on HBO "Hard Knocks" this season.

Will we ever see the Lions on the popular behind the scenes show?

Mike: My wisecrack answer is that they've already been on it. Going 0-16 in 2008 was a season of hard knocks. That wasn't entertainment for anyone connected to the Lions. It was a sports tragedy, and nothing more.

Jim Schwartz and upper management have been consistent in saying they don't want to be on "Hard Knocks", and they've never opened their personnel room to the networks during the draft.

The Lions have some good personalities who could be showcased in any media forum. However, I don't think any team has really gained anything by being on "Hard Knocks".

How would you react to having a pressroom wired for TV 24 hours a day?

Tim: You'd have to be censored for sudden outbursts of profanity, but other than that, the media bunch here at Allen Park aren't exactly a made for TV bunch.

Martin Mayhew and Schwartz have said publicly they wouldn't welcome the attention. I think Mike has a point in that there no real advantage to be gained in doing it.

Can you imagine for a moment a cameraman poking around the Lions' training room or talking to injured players?

I actually think the Lions would be very popular on the show. Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has real potential to steal the show. Louis Delmas is an engaging personality in front of the camera and the lens always seems to find Ndamukong Suh.

People will just have to satisfy themselves with Tim and Mike videos for now.

Interesting comments by Clayton saying the Lions' pass rush could hurt them this season. Is that a fair statement?

Mike: The Lions had more sacks last season than three playoff teams -- Washington, Atlanta and Indianapolis. The Rams tied Denver for the league lead with 52 and finished under .500 (7-8-1).

Five of the top six teams in sacks made the playoffs: Broncos, Bengals, Packers, Vikings and Texans. The next seven on the list missed the playoffs.

Sacks are important, but they don't correlate directly to a team's won-lost record.

More importantly, the Tim and Mike video has a nice ring to it. Sounds like one of the old cartoon shows for kids.

Nick Fairley, Ndamukong SuhDefensive tackles Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh

Which one of us is the cat, and which one is the mouse?

Tim: Doesn't the mouse always get the better of the cat in those cartoons?

As for the pass rush, I think you can't talk about sacks without mentioning how it goes hand-in-hand with the secondary.

The Lions improved their secondary this offseason and I think that'll have a trickle-down effect to the pass rush.

The Lions are longer and more athletic upfront, but we'll have to wait and see how good they can be until the pads come on and we see how their added length translates to added pressure on the quarterback.

They have the potential to be pretty disruptive upfront if Nick Fairley stays healthy, Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah lives up to his top-five-pick billing and the Jason Jones fits the scheme at left defensive end.

I think Clayton isn't wrong to question it, because there are some question marks, but I'm not overly concerned and don't get the sense the coaches are either.