On Wednesday night, a local Detroit TV station reported that the Lions have been discussing a Matthew Stafford trade for the past few weeks. Early Thursday morning, GM Bob Quinn issued a strong denial.
“100% False!!” Quinn wrote in a text message to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
After a 3-12-1 season, the Lions figure to make plenty of changes this offseason. Those changes apparently won’t include the departure of Stafford, who has been their starter for the past eleven seasons. Even if the Lions did want to move on, Stafford’s contract would be an impediment. Thanks to his lucrative deal, and a restructuring of the pact late last year, a trade or release would result in a $32MM dead money hit against the 2020 cap. Instead, Stafford will stay put and count for a $21.3MM charge.
It was a trying year for Stafford, who saw his streak of 136 consecutive starts come to a halt in November. Even with fractured bones in his back, Stafford tried and hoped for a quick recovery that would allow him to retake the field last season. That didn’t happen – his season ended after eight starts, nearly 2,500 passing yards and 19 touchdowns against five interceptions.
Now 32, Stafford still profiles as a veteran QB who can help the team win. His presence won’t preclude the team from exploring passers in the draft, either. The Lions hold the No. 3 pick, which should give them the opportunity to select anyone not named Joe Burrow. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, for example, figures to be available. Given his serious hip injury, it would make perfect sense for Stafford to operate as the team’s starter while Tagovailoa works his way back to full strength. Same goes for Justin Herbert or any rookie QB in need of seasoning.
Or, instead, the Lions could parlay their No. 3 pick into a host of picks to address multiple holes. If the Bengals stand pat at No. 1 and take Burrow, and the Redskins keep their No. 2 pick to select Chase Young, the Lions would be in a great position to trade with another team desperate to land their QB of choice while he’s still up for grabs.
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