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Previous adjustments could push Matt Stafford to front of line

Matthew Stafford

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford throw after a NFL football practice in Allen Park, Mich., Tuesday, May 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)


Now that Drew Brees has gotten his contract, the speculation turns to which quarterback is next at the window.

While he has more time left on his current contract than other passers, previous restructurings could make Lions quarterback Matt Stafford the next to cash in.

First off, Stafford’s not nearly as good as Brees. But he is good, and younger, which will give him the opportunity to approach the five-year, $100 million deal the Saints quarterback finished Friday.

As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes, the Lions have converted base salary to signing bonus in each of the last two years on Stafford’s deal to create short-term room. That has pushed next year’s salary cap charge over $20 million, and over $19 million in 2014.

With a number of starters entering contract years after the coming season (Cliff Avril, Corey Williams, Justin Durant, DeAndre Levy, Chris Houston, Louis Delmas and Gosder Cherilus) , that could put some pressure on the Lions to clear cap room the next few seasons by knocking down Stafford’s number with an extension this offseason.

It’s worth noting that agent Tom Condon, who negotiated Brees’ deal, will drive this process carefully. In addition to Stafford, he also represents Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, whose deal runs through 2013.