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Lions sign Stafford to three-year extension

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford looks for his receiver while being pressured by the Chicago Bears defense during the second half
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford looks for his receiver while being pressured by the Chicago Bears defense during the second half

(Reuters) - Quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions agreed to a three-year contract extension worth $53 million with $41.5 million guaranteed, the National Football League team said on Wednesday.

The first player taken in the 2009 NFL draft, Stafford already holds franchise single-season records for passing yards, touchdowns, completions and attempts.

Just 25 years old he could become the franchise's all-time passing leader this season if he tosses for at least 2,903 yards, which would surpass Bobby Layne's mark of 15,710.

"I just want to thank the Ford family and the Lions organization for entrusting me to lead this team into the future at least the next five years, hopefully more than that," Stafford told reporters after signing his deal. "I'm just happy that I'm going to be here for another five (years) getting this team going in the right direction.

"I promise you nobody's going to work harder than me to get this team going in the right direction winning games and going to the playoffs multiple years in a row. That's the plan."

While Stafford has demonstrated that he owns one of the NFL's best arms joining Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Dan Marino as the only quarterbacks to throw for 5,000 yards in a single campaign, he has yet to demonstrate he can take the Lions to the next level after going 4-12 last season.

Stafford threw for 41 touchdown passes and 5,038 yards in 2011, but took a step backwards last year, throwing for just 20 touchdowns while being intercepted 17 times.

Lions president Tom Lewand, however, is convinced Stafford is the franchise quarterback the team has long coveted.

"He (Stafford) has that work ethic, he's got the personality, he's got the leadership characteristics," said Lewand. "Those are the kinds of things that make him the worker that he is. He cares passionately about this football team, about his teammates, about winning, and he's come to care as passionately about this community."

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, editing by Gene Cherry)

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