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Lions Locking In On Stafford

Though they’ve done a fairly good job of keeping people guessing about their true intentions, we’re told that the Detroit Lions currently plan to take quarterback Matthew Stafford with the first pick in the 2009 draft. If what we’re hearing and how we’re hearing it is part of the smokescreen process, then they’re doing a fabulous job of it. Based on the organization’s recent history, however, it’s more likely that they aren’t quite as crafty about spreading misinformation as this specific tactic would require. (For obvious reasons, we can’t disclose how we obtained the information.) Although as to the other teams there’s no strategic reason to conceal the identity of the player they plan to draft since the Lions get the first pick, there’s a separate shell game as it relates to negotiating a contract. Given that Michigan tackle Jake Long received $30 million guaranteed last year on a five-year deal, a quarterback taken in the first overall slot will likely want $35 million guaranteed on a five-year contract -- and more than $40 million guaranteed on a six-year deal. That said, there’s a ceiling on the maximum possible guaranteed money that a rookie can receive, in light of the rookie salary pool (which limits the total payout to all of a team’s first-year players) and the rules regarding the extent to which the contract can grow in future seasons. Whatever the ceiling is, Stafford will surely want it all, if he’s the first overall pick. Two years ago, the Raiders took quarterback JaMarcus Russell in the No. 1 spot. A lengthy holdout, which stretched into September, washed out any chance of getting meaningful playing time as a rookie. He eventually appeared in four games, starting one and generating a passer rating of 55.9.