Stafford and the road to $200 million

July, 9, 2013
7/09/13
5:30
PM ET
It will take a day or so for the full details to filter out of the Detroit Lions' contract agreement with quarterback Matthew Stafford. In the meantime, it's worth amassing what we already know and wondering whether Stafford will approach and surpass a seemingly unreachable milestone: $200 million in career earnings.

We've discussed this topic before, noting that Stafford entered the NFL at age 21 and as one of the final No. 1 overall picks under the league's previous rookie pay structure. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Stafford's rookie contract brought him a total of $50.5 million in salary and bonuses over the past four seasons.

Tuesday's contract agreement includes $41.5 million in guarantees, $43 million in the first three years and a total of $76.5 million. So by the time he is 28, Stafford will have earned about $93.5 million. If he plays out this contract, he will have taken in $127 million over the first nine years of his career, at which point he will be 30.

It's difficult to know where quarterback salaries will be at that point, much less Stafford's value in that market. For all we know, his career could be over by then. But if he plays at a level that simply maintains his salary, he'll be a $200 million man by age 35. The milestone could come earlier if his next contract brings him into the $20 million-plus annual range of elite quarterbacks.

For context, consider that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had earned $29.91 million by the time he turned 25 and had taken in $61.26 million when he was 28. Rodgers' April extension, worth $139 million over the next seven years, will bring him close to $200 million if he plays to age 36.

There is no real football significance in Stafford's career earnings, other than a reminder of why the NFL put such a high priority on lowering rookie salaries in its current collective bargaining agreement. To this point, Stafford has earned and been guaranteed more money than any other 25-year-old player ever has and -- with the possible exception of the St. Louis Rams' Sam Bradford -- ever will.

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