Stafford is the 1: Georgia QB signs six-year deal with Lions as top pick

  • By NFL.com Wire Reports
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The Detroit Lions hope Matthew Stafford ends their decades-long search for a star quarterback.

Stafford is the Lions' No. 1 overall draft pick after agreeing Friday night to a six-year deal that NFL.com's Steve Wyche reports will pay the quarterback $41.7 million in guarantees and could be worth as much as $78 million.

"It's a huge relief," Stafford said Saturday on a conference call. "I'm just extremely excited to be a Lion."

Tom Condon confirmed that he and Ben Dogra -- Stafford's agents -- reached a contract agreement with the Lions on Friday night. The team then officially took Stafford with the No. 1 pick in the draft Saturday.

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"We feel we have a young guy that can lead us," Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said. "Now, it's up to us to develop him and get good players around him."

The Lions have five of the first 82 picks in the draft to try to help the NFL's first 0-16 team bounce back to respectability.

Detroit hasn't had a quarterback play in the Pro Bowl since Greg Landry in 1971. Long-term stability at the position has been elusive since Bobby Layne starred for the Lions in the 1950s.

Just before the Lions hired first-year coach Jim Schwartz this offseason, he joked that it was about time to replace Layne. In a coincidence, Stafford and Layne both played at Highland Park High School in Dallas.

"It's crazy," Stafford said. "I feel like you can't write it any better than that. It's a wild story, and it's good to be living it."

The Lions' lack of star power at quarterback is a major reason why the franchise has only one playoff victory since winning the 1957 NFL title.

The Lions desperately need talent under center to help turn around a franchise that is languishing in what has become the worst eight-year stretch in the league since World War II. Stafford will be the fifth quarterback drafted by Detroit in the first round since 1967. That list also includes Joey Harrington (2002), Andre Ware (1990), Chuck Long (1986) and Greg Landry (1968).

The Lions are turning to Stafford, who was a starter in each of his three seasons at Georgia. Stafford is the first player selected by Detroit with the No. 1 overall pick since running back Billy Sims in 1980. Stafford is the fourth player selected No. 1 overall in Lions franchise history.

"This is my 17th year in the NFL and the first time I can remember we've had a consensus on a first pick from top to bottom," Schwartz said. "He's got a strong arm, and his release is classic. He's got intelligence, a good work ethic and a passion for the game. He's a gym rat and loves to talk the game."

Detroit might be able to help Stafford's chances to succeed by letting him watch veteran quarterback Daunte Culpepper play initially next season. However, there will be pressure to get Stafford on the field because of the financial investment in him.

John Bazemore / Associated Press
Matthew Stafford's deal is the most lucrative ever signed by a No. 1 overall draft choice.
Contract numbers for No. 1 picks (since 2000)
Year
Player
Contract
Guaranteed
M. Stafford
6 yrs/$72M
$41.7M
Jake Long
5 yrs/$57.75M
$30M
J. Russell
6 yrs/$61M
$29.2M
Mario Williams
6 yrs/$54M
$26.5M
Alex Smith
6 yrs/$57M
$24M
Eli Manning
6 yrs/$54M
$20M*
Carson Palmer
7 yrs/$49M
$14M*
David Carr
7 yrs/$46.2M
$14M*
Michael Vick
6 yrs/$62M
$15.3M
C. Brown
6 yrs/$45M
$10.9M
* Signing bonus

In guarantees and maximum value, Stafford's contract is more lucrative than the one signed by the first quarterback drafted last year. Matt Ryan, the No. 3 pick in 2008, received $72 million, with $34.75 million guaranteed, as part of six-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons.

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said earlier in the week that the chances an agreement would be reached with the No. 1 pick before Saturday were "very good."

On the eve of the draft, the deal was done.

Stafford always seemed to be Plan A, but Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry and Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith apparently were backup options.

Stafford will not be able to fix all the problems associated with a franchise that has been bad enough to go 31-97 since 2001 in what has been the worst eight-year stretch by an NFL team since the Chicago Cardinals won 23 percent of their games from 1936 to 1943.

But the Lions can't afford to draft another bust as they did with Harrington, who they took No. 3 overall in 2002. Harrington was traded after four lackluster seasons to Miami for a fifth-round pick. The Dolphins later cut him, Atlanta added him and got rid of him, and he's now a third-stringer for the New Orleans Saints.

"Obviously, the draft is the biggest crap shoot there is," Stafford recently acknowledged.

Recent No. 1 picks have proven that. Eight of the past 11 players taken first overall in the NFL have been quarterbacks, and half of them either haven't or didn't pan out for the teams that took them. For every Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer, quarterbacks such as Tim Couch and David Carr have shown there are no guarantees.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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