After 12 years in the NFL, Matthew Stafford and his contract were traded to the Los Angeles Rams in a blockbuster deal last offseason. Let’s examine what impact the trade had on Stafford’s contract, his current salary, and what decisions the Los Angeles Rams have going forward.
Matthew Stafford has two years remaining on his contract
In 2017, Stafford signed a five-year, $135 million contract extension with the Detroit Lions. Stafford’s previous contract was set to run through the 2017 season. Therefore, the extension was set to keep him in Detroit until the 2022 NFL season.
What were the details of Matthew Stafford’s contract prior to the trade?
When Stafford signed the contract extension, $60.5 million of the $135 million was guaranteed at signing. However, the final guarantee in the contract ended in 2020. Therefore, heading into 2021, no guarantees were remaining on the deal.
Stafford restructured his contract in 2019. The Lions and Stafford agreed to convert $13.2 million of his 2020 salary and roster bonus into a signing bonus. The move saved $9 million against the cap in 2020 but increased his cap hit by $3 million in each of the final two seasons. They also added a void year in 2023, which was set to cost the Lions $3 million in salary cap space that year.
How does Stafford’s contract shape up following the trade?
Stafford counted against the salary cap for both the Lions and the Rams in 2021. Let’s take a look at his cap hit distribution this past season and into 2022 with each organization.
The Lions were set to have Stafford count $33 million against their salary cap in 2021. Of that money, $9.5 million was base salary, a $10 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the league year, and a $500,000 workout bonus. The remaining $13 million was a prorated bonus cap charge due to the signing bonuses, both in the original deal and the restructure ahead of the 2020 season.
The Lions cleared the $20 million owed in salary, roster bonus, and workout bonus with the trade. However, Stafford had further prorated bonus cap charges in 2022 and 2023. Those were set to be $3 million each year. Both of those accelerated onto the cap in 2021.
Therefore, the Lions had $19 million in dead money on their 2021 salary cap following the trade. However, that was a saving of $14 million on what Stafford would have cost in 2021 prior to the trade.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams’ cap hit with Stafford’s contract was relatively simple. They took on the $20 million owed to Stafford in salary, roster bonus, and workout bonus. Additionally, the Rams took on Stafford’s contract for 2022, the final year of his deal.
As it stands on NFC Championship weekend, Stafford will earn $12.5 million in base salary, a $10 million roster bonus, and a $500,000 workout bonus in 2022. Therefore, Stafford’s salary cap number in 2022 will be $23 million.
What options do the Rams have with Matthew Stafford’s contract?
Heading into the 2022 offseason, the Rams have some flexibility with Stafford’s contract. There are no remaining guarantees on the deal, and at $23 million, he is really not that expensive. The Rams essentially have the choice of letting 2022 play out and seeing what happens or extending Stafford now.
The downside of doing the deal now is that Stafford will be 35 in 2023 and could be looking at the downside of his career. However, waiting to do the deal next offseason could add further value to the contract. Right now, they would still likely have to go over $40 million per year. Yet, with a number of QB extensions possible between now and the next offseason, that cost could rise to $50 million annually.
If the Rams want to open up cap space this year, they could create roughly another $17.5 million by restructuring Stafford’s deal. It would technically be considered an extension because they would have to add years to the deal. But they would be void years. The Rams could convert around $21.5 million in base salary and roster bonus to a signing bonus and add four void years.
The downside of doing that would be that Stafford would then count for around $17.5 million against the Rams cap next season whether he is on the roster or not.