Draft day blog: Stafford in the fold, what's next?
I'll be heading out to Allen Park to commence draft-weekend coverage shortly after I post this blog and cut the grass but a couple quick thoughts on last night's deal and where the Lions go from here.
First, I know there's some shock and even outrage at the contract Matt Stafford got, $41.7 million guaranteed with a reported maximum value of $78 million. Most of that stems from Aaron Curry's well-played declaration that he'd take a Jake Long-type deal to go No. 1 and Lions' fans general frustration with the pick. The truth is, the Lions paid about what they expected it was going to take to sign a quarterback at No. 1.
At the NFL combine in February, I asked general manager Martin Mayhew if the struggling economy would impact salaries at the top of the draft.
I can't see it happening, he said. I mean the salary cap went up. And you see the (Nnamdi Asomugha) contract that was done (for three years and $45 million). I don't see that as impacting. When you talk about the top players, there's going to be a market for those guys and that market consistently, since the beginning of time, has gone up. So unless the cap comes down at some point I can't see the market coming down.
The Lions zeroed in Stafford early on in this process and, despite reports, were intent on signing him all along. They could have got Curry for less, but they wanted Stafford and will pay a shade over what Matt Ryan made as the top quarterback and third pick overall last year.
Now, what does the Stafford deal mean for the rest of the draft? I take Mayhew at his word that he's determined to choose the best player available. Yes, they'll draft a middle linebacker at some point because they don't have one on their roster, but they won't reach for one in the first round if it doesn't mesh with their board. Ditto for offensive line help and every other position you can name.
Since this is considered a draft deep in offensive skill positions and rush linebackers up top, that might lead to some interesting choices. I'm curious from the fans out there, if say Rey Maualuga and Robert Ayers are off the board, how would you feel about Brandon Pettigrew, the draft's top tight end, at No. 20? What if they land defensive tackle at 20 and then go back to offense for a center/guard combo like Louisville's Eric Wood at 33, ignoring the defensive backfield and middle linebacker spots until Sunday?
There should be plenty of options at both picks, players like Wake Forest cornerback/return man Alphonso Smith, Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis and Boston College defensive tackle Ron Brace, and we all know the Lions have plenty of needs (especially on defense). But with a few hours to kill and only the guessing game to play, I wonder what will it take for you to come away liking the Lions' draft?