Lions' Matthew Stafford 4th-and-inches from big payday

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Quarterback Matthew Stafford throws during drills Friday.

Allen Park — Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is unquestionably a polarizing athlete. His supporters will trumpet his record-breaking statistics playing behind a subpar offensive line. His detractors will highlight the lack of meaningful wins, including zero postseason victories in his seven seasons.

But regardless of where you stand on Stafford, the fact of the matter is he’s on the cusp of getting paid. Again. And there are a growing number of analysts who believe when he signs on the dotted line, he’ll be inking the richest deal in NFL history.

Stafford actually has two years remaining on his current contract, but quarterbacks of his caliber are never permitted to reach free agency. The expectation is an extension will be negotiated next offseason. Even though that chatter is picking up know, he insists it’s not something he’s thinking about.

“Every year is a big year if you’re a quarterback in the NFL,” Stafford said. “You’re under the spotlight more than any other position, and right or wrong, that’s just the way it is. Contract stuff, that doesn’t weight into my preparation, my decisions, nothing. I just go out there and play. My job is to help this team win and that’s really all I focus on. The rest of that stuff takes care of itself.”

Stafford’s value to the Lions might actually be peaking. The 28-year-old quarterback is arguably coming off the best stretch of his career. During the Lions’ 6-2 finish to last season, he completed a staggering 70 percent of his passes with an equally impressive 19-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Caldwell doesn’t take his return to Lions for granted

And believe it or not, coach Jim Caldwell believes Stafford looks better now than he did during that stretch.

“I think Matthew is better than he was at the end of last year right now,” Caldwell said. “I continue to say that I think he’s certainly going to continue to improve.”

If Stafford performs anywhere near as well as he did last season, he will likely have no issue topping the record-breaking six-year, $140-million pact recently signed by Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck.

Stafford was less reserved when indirectly discussing his upcoming financial windfall after he was asked what he thought about Luck’s megadeal.

“Yeah, I thought it was a good deal,” Stafford said. “I’m never against anybody making as much money as they can. That’s great. This is a limited time business. We don’t get to play this game until we’re 50, and you know, he’s a heck of a player. He’s deserving of every cent and I would imagine he’s excited to just kind of put that behind him and go play now. He’s got whatever, five or six years or whatever it is to just kind of go out there and play football. I thought it was good. I thought it was good for our league, and good for the position.”

Twitter: @justin_rogers