By Larry Lage
ALLEN PARK, Mich. —
Matthew Stafford ended a conversation.
Stafford signed a $53 million, three-year extension with the Detroit Lions to stay under contract for $76.5 million over the next five seasons. The deal came a month after the 25-year-old quarterback answered another round of questions about his future with the team.
"I don't want to go for the next three years talking about, 'Well, you've got two years left. You've got one year left; now you're getting franchised,'" said Stafford, who had two years left on the deal he signed as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft. "That's just something I'm not about. I want to be about the team. I want to help the team out if I can in cap space, whatever it is. I want good players around me as a quarterback."
Stafford and the Lions agreed to terms Tuesday on the deal that will pay him another $41.5 million in guarantees, and he signed the contract Wednesday morning to answer the question about where he'll play in the near future.
"It was important too to remove that dialogue," Lions President Tom Lewand said. "Not that Matthew would let it become a distraction or that we would let it become a distraction. But as he said, he was not the kind of person that wants to go into next year talking about one year left on a contract or possibly going into a franchise tag. This way we avoid that."
The deal clears some salary cap space for a franchise desperately seeking success with only one playoff victory since winning the 1957 NFL title.
Detroit hasn't won much in large part because its last Pro Bowl quarterback was Greg Landry in 1971.
The last time the Lions were a league power — in the 1950s — they were led by Hall of Fame QB Bobby Layne, who like Stafford played at Highland Park High School in Dallas.
They're counting on Stafford to make playoff appearances a regular occurrence, not something that has happened only once — in 2011 — in 13 years.
Detroit drafted Stafford out of Georgia and signed him to a six-year contract worth as much as $78 million with $41.7 million in guarantees.
Following two injury-stunted seasons, he helped the Lions earn a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
Stafford was honored as the 2011 Associated Press comeback player of the year after setting franchise records with 41 touchdowns and 5,038 yards passing.
While Stafford became the second player in NFL history to throw for more than 10,000 yards within the first 37 games of his career last year, he threw more interceptions than he did the previous season, had 21 fewer TD passes and a lower completion percentage.
The Lions, though, can look past those facts because of the intangibles they see on a daily basis from Stafford, a natural leader in and out of the locker room, on and off the field.
"(Bo) Schembechler used to call it moxie," Lewand said. "It's that something else that's hard to define, and Matthew has that. He has that work ethic. He's got the personality; he's got the leadership characteristics."
Stafford knows he could've waited to sign a new deal for another year or two to cash in even more, and acknowledged he thought about it.
"Like I said months ago when you guys didn't believe me, I said I'm not in it to sign mega contracts, I'm in it to win games," he said. "I'm happy to be here. I'm happy to do what I can to help this club and get as many players around as we can."