There are a lot of factors for teams to look at when evaluating sports talent — especially as salaries soar. Quarterback Matt Stafford of the Detroit Lions reportedly just became the highest paid player in NFL history, agreeing on a deal that will pay the 8-year NFL veteran in the neighborhood of $27 million a year — maybe a little more. Stafford has the kind of stats that would allow a modestly bright squirrel to negotiate a rich deal for him in today’s boomtown NFL environment: Stafford’s 278 yards per game passing average is the highest in NFL history for a player who has played eight seasons.
Stafford is the Detroit franchise leader in all-time passing yards, completions and touchdowns too. These days algorithms write the contracts. It’s like an actuarial table for superstars: you put the data in and you get the deal out. But there are always unknowns, just as in the actuarial model. Stafford has another factor in his history that helped make his new long term deal attractive to ownership: the quarterback hasn’t missed a game since 2011. (Unless you count the Super Bowl and conference championship games. He and the Lions have missed all of those.) It’s an NFL truism that Stafford’s offensive line gets a lot of credit for his durability– it’s a good bet he’ll be buying all those 350-pound men new luxury watches this season.