Stafford Now Third Highest-Paid QB -- In His Own Division

And more change is coming.

Will Burchfield
August 29, 2018 - 2:59 pm

© Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

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For a handful of months anyway, Matthew Stafford was the highest-paid player in the NFL. Now he ranks third -- in his own division. 

In the wake of the four-year, $134 extension Aaron Rodgers signed with the Packers on Wednesday, Stafford has been bumped further down the league's salary charts. And the five-year, $135 million deal the Lions gave him last August continues to look more reasonable. 

Most people saw this coming when Stafford inked his extension. Rodgers and Matt Ryan were on the horizon of cashing in themselves, meaning Stafford's highest-paid title wouldn't last long. But few could have predicted a shake-up like this. 

Stafford, with an average annual salary of $27 million, one that was unprecedented at this time last year, is now the fifth highest-paid quarterback in the game. 

It started when the 49ers signed Jimmy Garoppolo to a stunning five-year, $137.5 million deal in February. Garoppolo, who has just seven career starts to his name, eclipsed Stafford with a salary of $37.5 million per year and vaulted to the top of the rankings. 

That lasted for all of a month. 

Kirk Cousins was the next domino to fall. He inked a three-year, $84 million contract with the Vikings in March that pays him $28 million per year. For Lions fans that grumble about Stafford's mediocre won-loss record, it bears mention Cousins is 26-30-1 over six seasons. 

Two months later, Ryan usurped Cousins. The Falcons gave their franchise quarterback a five-year, $150 million deal worth $30 million annually, on the heels of a season in which Ryan ranked 15th in the NFL in passer rating (91.4). 

And then Rodgers flat out broke the bank. His record-setting extension pays him a whopping $33.5 million per year. 

It was a year ago to the day that Stafford became the highest-paid player in the NFL. Now he's looking up at two of his counterparts in the NFC North. Funny how things change. 

And more change is coming.

Russell Wilson will be angling for an extension next offseason, while the rookie contracts of Carson Wentz and Jared Goff expire after the 2019 season. Cam Newton will be a free agent after the 2020 season.

And that's without mentioning the likes of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger, all of whom will be free agents in the next couple years and could rake in big-time money on short-term deals should they decide to keep playing. 

By the start of the 2020 season, Stafford could very well be outside the top 10 highest-paid players in football. Heck, if Mitch Trubisky fulfills his potential in Chicago, Stafford may darn well be the lowest-paid quarterback in his own division. 

By then, $27 million per year will look quite ordinary. It might even be a bargain.