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Thanks to the Lions, Matthew Stafford is the highest-paid player in NFL history

Matthew Stafford’s paychecks are about to grow. (Rick Osentoski / Associated Press)
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The Detroit Lions and Matthew Stafford agreed on a contract extension Monday that is worth $135 million over five years and will make the ninth-year quarterback the highest-paid player in NFL history.

At a reported annual value of slightly more than $27 million, Stafford’s contract tops that of Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who led the league for about two months after inking a five-year, $125 million pact in June.

The next NFL salary record could be set by Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is playing on his second straight one-year deal after the team again used the franchise tag on him. Other quarterbacks who could be signing major contract extensions in the near future include Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan.

The Lions and Stafford were able to bridge a large gap in negotiations that began in March, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Stafford won’t be the highest paid QB for long. You can count on that.

The first overall pick of the 2009 draft, Stafford holds franchise records for passing yards (30,303), completions (2,634), attempts (4,285) and touchdowns (187), and his career average of 278.0 passing yards per game is the most in NFL history for a player’s first eight seasons (per ESPN). Stafford, who made the Pro Bowl in 2014, hasn’t missed a game since 2011, leading the Lions to three postseason berths in that span.

The strong-armed 29-year-old has yet to win a playoff game with the Lions, but the team has liked his progression into a more efficient passer — he’s posted his highest completion percentages in the past two seasons. Last year, in his first season without star wide receiver Calvin Johnson, Stafford notched career bests in interception percentage (1.7) and QBR (70.5) with the Lions going to a more deliberate, conservative attack to compensate for a struggling defense.

Exact terms of Stafford’s contract, such as the amount of guaranteed money, was not immediately available. The quarterback was heading into the final year of a contract set to pay him $16.5 million for 2017, and he had indicated that he would not be inclined to continue negotiating once the season began, putting pressure on the Lions to come to terms.

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Stafford’s wife, Kelly, followed the Lions’ announcement of the new deal with one of her own, posting a photo of the couple’s twin daughters on Instagram and writing: “When daddy and mommy whispered to us we would be spending 6 more years in detroit… hope y’all are as excited as we are!
#golions #thankyoudetroit #home”

In addition to his 0-3 playoff record, Stafford has gone just 51-58 in his 109 regular season starts although he’s 27-21 over the past three seasons. More significantly, as an above-average starter at the game’s most important position, he is a commodity that would be very difficult to replace on the open market, and the Lions’ history has been marked by a lack of stability at quarterback.

If Stafford had not agreed on an extension, he could in theory have played the next three seasons with the Lions under the franchise tag, costing the team upward of $96 million. In that sense, he gave the team a bit of a discount, albeit one he could easily afford having already banked more than $110 million (per Spotrac) in earnings.

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