Lions in 'early stages' of Stafford contract talks

Justin Rogers, The Detroit News

Detroit — Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn likes to remind people it takes two sides to get a deal done. But it’s likely a matter of when, not if, the team will sign quarterback Matthew Stafford to a long-term extension.

Taking part in a Q&A session at the season-ticket holder summit at Ford Field on Thursday evening, Quinn confirmed the organization has begun conversations with Stafford about extending the franchise quarterback’s contract.

“It’s not done yet,” Quinn said. “We’re in the very early stages of talking to Matthew and his representatives. Matthew is a quarterback I want here. I know he’s the quarterback coach Caldwell wants here. We’re in the early stages. It takes two sides to do a deal and we’re working toward that.”

Stafford’s deal is expected to be one of the most lucrative in NFL history and could top Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck’s six-year, $140 million pact signed last June.

From the time Quinn arrived in Detroit in 2016, he’s made it clear he views Stafford as the solution. And as he’s further evaluated the talent around the league, and college prospects waiting in the wings, it’s only affirmed the GM’s belief.

“It’s interesting, we’re sitting down in draft meetings the past couple weeks, and we go through every position, no matter if we need one or not,” Quinn said. “You go across the country, there’s really a lack of quarterbacks when you go across the NFL and college football. We’re in a fortunate situation to have Matthew as a member of our team and we’re hoping to make that a long-term thing.”

Stafford is coming off one of his finest seasons, having completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 4,327 yards, 24 touchdowns and a career-low 10 interceptions. Before breaking the middle finger on his throwing hand and struggling down the stretch, his name was being thrown around as a fringe MVP candidate for his efficiency and late-game heroics.

Led by Stafford, the Lions set the NFL record with eight fourth-quarter comebacks last season.

“One of things you learn about him rather quickly, number one, it takes a high degree of intelligence to hold your emotions down in those situations,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “He does that extremely well. He can focus extremely well. He can be in the moment. The other thing, he is not afraid. Typically, you see nerves get to guys in those situations where they’ll make the mistake, try to get the ball out of their hands maybe sooner than they should. None of that happens with him.”

Caldwell said Stafford’s leadership and poise trickles down across the roster in those big moments. The coach also believes Stafford, who holds every significant franchise passing record, hasn’t come close to peaking, especially if the team can supply him with a competent running game.

“Before we even had a chance to work with him, you could see on film the talent level that he has,” Caldwell has. “You have to respect how tough he is, his teammates love his leadership and he can make every throw. Not only that, he’s just scratching the surface.

“With him, he’s young, he’s capable, and there’s no question about it, add a running game and it’s going to help him.”

Twitter: @justin_rogers