Matthew Stafford’s performance this past season declined, and sometimes drastically. Although both the quarterback himself and his coaches will continually deny it, his mechanics resembled those of a panicked schoolyard chucker who’s far more of a thrower than a quarterback. When faced with even a hint of pressure he’d lob a sidearm throw, or fail to plant his feet to ensure the most accurate placement possible.

That means now — right now — is the best time to secure him with an extension.

As first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Lions are close to what Schefter called a “blockbuster” contract extension which could be completed sometime today and formally announced. But the number Stafford will receive isn’t nearly as blockbuster-y as the other quarterback contracts dished out Oprah style earlier this offseason to Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco.

Stafford currently has two years remaining on his six-year deal signed in 2009, and he was scheduled to make a gargantuan $20.8 million against the cap this season. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reported that three years will now be added to that contract, meaning that effectively, the new contract functions as a restructuring with added years. That’s key, because it gives the Lions much needed short-term cap relief. Then ProFootballTalk unearthed the digits: the new money is $53 million, and the total payment over the five years is then $76.5 million. The key figure? $43 million guaranteed.

At 25 he’s very young and far from his ceiling, and he’s now secured until 2017 (when he’ll still be a young-ish 29) for $11 million less in guaranteed cash than what Rodgers received, and $9 million less than Flacco. With an average annual base salary of $15.3 million over the five years, Stafford will also earn much less per year than those two (Flacco is getting $20.1 million, and Rodgers will be paid $18.6 million).

Yes, Stafford had a poor 2012 season in which his touchdown-to-interceptions ration declined dramatically (41:16 in 2011, and 20:17 in 2012). But if even most of the Stafford we saw a year ago returns, long term we’ll see the gap between Flacco and the Lions franchise quarterback isn’t nearly that vast.

Or maybe we won’t, and Stafford will continue to be good (not great) most of the time, and OK a lot of the time. What matters now, though, is that the Lions have secured a young quarterback who can still be developed, and one who’s displayed his upside despite maddening inconsistencies. And by the standards of today’s rapidly rising QB market, they’ve done it at a fine price which didn’t break every bank.

You’ve come a long way, Lions. Good job, good effort.