By Ross Tucker
May 01, 2009

I am still not over it. It's been a week but I can't stop thinking about it.

Matthew Stafford received a contract that will pay him $41.7 million guaranteed, no matter what happens with his pro career. Ouch. Just writing that hurts. Hearing people say it hurts. Sometimes it is just a random pain in my heart, while other times it makes me sick to my stomach.

I don't begrudge Stafford or his agent Tom Condon for working the system and maximizing earning potential. More power to them. If I were in Stafford's shoes, I would have tried to do the same thing. As a matter of fact, it is important to note Stafford has handled himself exceedingly well throughout this process. I like him and really hope he succeeds, both for himself and for the people of Detroit.

But $41.7 million guaranteed with the possibility of getting between $72 million and $78 million over the next six years? Whatever happened to signability playing a huge part in the Lions decision? So much for that. I mean, if they ended at $41.7 million after quite a bit of posturing and heavy negotiations, what did Condon start with? Ten percent of the Lions franchise or five percent of Ford Motor Company?

I understand quarterbacks get a premium, and Condon wanted to maintain the percentage increases that we have seen in recent years, but I really didn't think it would end up being more than $40 million. It doesn't exactly seem like the Lions drive a real hard bargain.

I have always said that almost no price is too much to pay for a true franchise quarterback, but what if Stafford isn't one? Aaron Curry said before the draft that he would take less than what Jake Long received at No. 1 overall last year, so that put him below $30 million guaranteed. That means the Lions could have had the player most thought was the best in the draft and the surest shot to be a Pro Bowler for $12 million less in locked-in compensation. Conceivably, they could have then tried to trade their pick at either 20 or 33 for Brady Quinn.

It is hard to fathom Stafford will receive more guaranteed money than anyone who has ever played. Think about that. A 21-year-old man who had three stellar, yet not overwhelming years playing college football, is at the top of the totem poll on the NFL pay scale. It is a good thing the NFL's popularity is at an all-time high because this would be an absolutely unsustainable business model in any other industry.

The mailman delivers ...

Your letter to rookies is fantastic, and I wish it was mandatory reading for all newcomers to the league. However, I have one question about all of this punching. Do players really get in fights this often? If so, why has Steve Smith gotten into so much trouble doing exactly that? Maybe I just need clarification on what type of fighting is and is not acceptable between NFL players. Thanks.--Nathan, Cary, N.C.

There is a huge difference between a scuffle after the play between two heated combatants with helmets and pads on and the two Smith incidents. The type of retaliation I was talking about is on the field just after a play, when you are pushed or punched in a manner that has nothing to do with the play itself. You can't just let that go in practice, otherwise you will continue to get bullied until you stand up for yourself.

Smith's first transgression was in a meeting room inside the facility and his second took place on the sidelines when Ken Lucas had his helmet off and was totally unsuspecting. In both cases, Smith threw the first punch at a guy because of their heated dialogue.

All the attention is on the Wildcat, and now that Miami has drafted Pat White it is only going to get more. Am I the only one who watched the Ravens-Dolphins playoff game? Fifty-two yards rushing with 224 yards passing with four interceptions! When is this fad going to die down?-- Erik, Herndon, Va.

You might have a good point, Erik. I am not convinced the Wildcat is here to stay. The only way it really works is if the guy getting the direct snap is a legitimate passing threat, which I think White is. The Dolphins obviously think he is the ideal candidate, and they apparently are going to run a lot more Wildcat, otherwise they wouldn't have taken him in the second round.

In the game you mentioned, the Ravens barely even covered Chad Pennington once he split out wide since he is not really a concern at that spot. Baltimore brought pressure off the edge while committing to stop the run in the inside because they weren't that threatened by Ronnie Brown's passing skills. As a result, the Ravens had tremendous success stuffing the Dolphins in two games last year.

You have no idea what you are talking about when it comes to the Cowboys draft. The Cowboys did not have any immediate needs, so they drafted special team players, which was the weakest area of our team. Since you write now instead of play, you are entitled to your opinion, but since you don't have any Super Bowl rings and the Cowboys franchise has five, I think they know more than you.-- Christopher Bryant, Reading, Pa.

Ouch, and this is from a guy from my hometown. I don't disagree that the Cowboys needed to upgrade their special teams, but it is not easy for rookies to come in right away and make a huge contribution in that area if they haven't done it a lot in college, which most rookies have not.

More important, Christopher makes a solid point about Dallas not having any immediate needs. In fact, the Cowboys have really good depth at most positions. When you have two former first-rounders as backup linebackers, you have some serious depth that most teams don't. But that only accentuates my contention that taking 12 guys is silly, considering no more than eight will even make the team unless Dallas decides to shed veterans. The Cowboys should have packaged some picks to move up and get four to six players in earlier rounds that they really liked.

And no, I don't have any Super Bowl rings, but I do have more playoff wins under my belt (one) than Dallas does this decade. I know that stings, Christopher, but you made it personal, not me.

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