The Joe Flacco rule helped Matthew Stafford become NFL's top-paid player

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford became the NFL's highest-paid player on Monday, just 17 months after Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco held that same title.

The connection between the strong-armed passers is that Stafford reached the financial pinnacle the same way Flacco did.

Call it the Joe Flacco rule. Teams will pay a premium price for a quarterback, not because they believe they're the best player in the NFL but because they know they won't find a better quarterback right away. Desperate times call for disparate numbers.

The Lions, like the Ravens, knew another team would gladly overpay for Stafford if he reached free agency and, in return, Detroit would be once again searching for an answer to the most important position in the game. Just ask the Browns, Bills, Jets and Jaguars how the lack of a proven passer can handcuff a franchise.

This is why the Lions gave $135 million over five years to a quarterback who has a career losing record in the regular season (51-58) and a mediocre 84.7 career passer rating. Does this sound like someone who became the richest player in the league?

This is eerily similar to March 2016, when the Ravens signed Flacco to a three-year, $66.4 million extension. At that time, Flacco had a much better record (75-47) than Stafford and a slightly worse passer rating (84.7). Flacco, though, had led the Ravens to a Super Bowl triumph. Stafford is winless in three postseason games.

Neither Baltimore nor Detroit was going to let them hit the open market. Flacco is the best quarterback in Ravens history and Stafford is the top one for the Lions in many, many years. It's apparent that the franchises decided it was better to give a lot of money to a known commodity than gamble on an unknown one, which could result in another decade-long carousel.

The Ravens went through 15 starting quarterbacks in the franchise's first 12 seasons before landing Flacco in the first round of the 2008 draft. The Lions started 10 quarterbacks in the 10 years prior to using the No. 1 overall pick on Stafford in 2009. The years of not having a decent quarterback makes a franchise appreciate one even more when they have him. The spectre of Kyle Boller and Joey Harrington still hover over the teams' forgettable period.

What will really determine a successful deal is how a quarterback plays going forward with that top price tag. Since getting his first big payday after winning Super Bowl MVP honors, Flacco is 29-29 as a starter with an 82.5 passer rating, which ranks 33rd in the league. His touchdown-to-interception ratio (1.31) is the worst in the NFL among quarterbacks who've played more than 16 games.

These days, no one will say exactly when Flacco will return to the practice field because of a back issue. When he does, Flacco won't be among the five highest-paid players in the NFL.

Stafford's record-setting deal pushes Flacco down to No. 6 in terms of average per season. Flacco's $22.1 million per-year average is dwarfed by Stafford's $27 million per-season value.

Like Flacco, Stafford isn't expected to stay at No. 1 for too long. The money for quarterbacks is only going to go up with Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins and Drew Brees set for new deals.

For now, Stafford is the NFL's highest-paid player and maybe everyone will start asking whether he is an elite quarterback, as well.