Talk to 2 Guys for long enough and either of them are bound to bring up a player that is overpaid, or our patented design for building a team (this isn't brain surgery): Draft well, don't reach, don't overpay, and don't get desperate. That's really it.
In the NBA, we preach letting guys walk who aren't going to take your team to another level, especially at an advanced age (cough... Josh Smith... cough). We preach accumulating draft picks and developing talent while not putting yourself in a horrible cap situation. We preach value as a perfect approach to building a team.
So it may seem a little counterintuitive when I defend overpaying quarterbacks.
Quarterback is the most valuable position in football. Period. It doesn't matter how good the rest of your team is (Arizona), if you don't have a guy taking snaps who can take your team to that next level, you're chances of winning a Super Bowl are slim. Joe Flacco played like an elite quarterback in the playoffs this year, but even he is one of the least accomplished signal calling Super Bowl winners of the past two decades (Aikman, Young, Favre, Elway, Warner, Dilfer, Brady, Brad Johnson, Manning, Other Manning, Big Ben, Rodgers, and Brees, in case you're keeping count). If you're calling Eli Manning and Kurt Warner elite, which I am, then that makes two non-elite quarterbacks outside of Flacco in the last 20 years to win the Super Bowl. If there's one position to overpay, it's quarterback.
So Matthew Stafford signed a big deal. So did Flacco, so did Romo, and so have a slew of other high level quarterbacks who have signed big deals over the past few years. The question in my opinion is not whether Stafford is worth over 40 million dollars in guaranteed money. Rather, the question is, what is the market rate for not starting over at QB?
You can argue about whether or not these guys are players that can win you a Super Bowl (other than Flacco now I guess), but you can't argue that these are top level, high producing players that give their teams a chance to win every week. And the market level price for that position is, simply put, really fucking high.
Take this for example. The Lions had a breakout season in 2011, before crumbling back to Earth last season. They have a young, emerging defense, the best WR in football, and they're slowly improving the offensive line and running game. Now is not the time to start another rebuilding effort at the QB spot. Give Stafford his money, and see if he can make you a playoff team.
Is he consistent? No. But has he shown enough to make you think that some other guy won't be able to step in as easily? Absolutely. Romo has been in the same boat, despite his struggles. You're not paying what you think they are worth. You're paying for stability at the one position in football that you can't afford to not be stable.
Of course I think it's gotten out of hand, and we should try to drive that market value down a bit, but I'm not going to kill the Lions for paying their inconsistent, formerly injury prone starter who looks like a goofy frat boy a ton of money. Stafford has the ability to be an elite player in this league, and he's been improving each year (last year's win/loss total aside).
So congrats to the Lions for sticking with their guy, and congrats to Sam Bradford, who could be the next to be very overpaid if he has a breakout season in his second year under Jeff Fisher.