After 12 seasons, the Matthew Stafford era in Detroit is set to come to an end. The veteran quarterback has asked the Lions to trade him, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reports.
Having recently hired a new GM and new head coach, the Lions have met with Stafford over the past two weeks. In those meetings, the 32-year-old quarterback has requested a fresh start. The Lions are planning to discuss Stafford with teams in the coming weeks, Pelissero adds. The sides are expected to mutually part ways, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.
This news comes a year after Stafford popped up in trade rumors. But previous GM Bob Quinn squashed those, and Stafford’s wife affirmed their desire to stay in Detroit last year. But the Lions struggled again in 2020 and have hired Dan Campbell as HC and Brad Holmes as GM. They are also on the verge of hiring Anthony Lynn as OC.
Campbell would be Stafford’s fourth full-time head coach, and Holmes the third GM in the quarterback’s tenure. The Lions have made the playoffs just three times in Stafford’s career. Both Campbell and Holmes were clued in on the notion Stafford may want out before they signed on with the Lions this month, Justin Rogers of the Detroit News tweets. Stafford suggested after the season a trade may benefit both he and the Lions, and the team agreed to pursue it this week, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Stafford, Holmes and Campbell confirmed on a call this week a trade will be the goal, though Rogers adds (via Twitter) the Lions will only deal him if they receive a worthwhile offer.
The Lions hold the No. 7 pick in the upcoming draft. They picked third last year, following a 2019 season in which Detroit lost every game after Stafford was lost for the season midway through, but selected cornerback Jeff Okudah over Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert. This year, it would seem Detroit will be firmly in the market for a first-round QB pick. Though, Trevor Lawrence will be gone by the time Detroit picks. Justin Fields and/or Zach Wilson might be off the board as well.
While Stafford has made just one Pro Bowl in 12 seasons, the former No. 1 overall pick has frequently been placed in difficult situations. The cannon-armed passer has never had a high-end running game and played most of the 2020 season without Kenny Golladay. The Lions now have Golladay and Marvin Jones set for free agency and Stafford on the way out. With Campbell on a six-year contract, a rebuild is here in Detroit.
Stafford was unable to procure the Lions a playoff win, leaving him well behind Hall of Famer Bobby Layne in terms of postseason success, but he owns all the franchise’s passing records. And after an injury-plagued start to his career, Stafford started every game from 2011-18. He returned from the 2019 back injury to start 16 games this season, sporting a 26-10 TD-INT ratio and ranking 15th in QBR. Considering Stafford’s age and talent level, the Lions should be able to obtain a nice trade haul.
Stafford’s 2017 extension runs through the 2022 season. He is due just $9.5MM in 2021 base salary and $12.5MM in 2022. He is also due $10MM roster bonuses in each of the next two years, though in this era, cap numbers of $20MM (2021) and $23MM (’22) are quite manageable for a franchise quarterback. Stafford being due the $10MM bonus on the fifth day of the 2021 league year points to a trade commencing before then.
Teams like the Colts, Patriots, Broncos and Washington are among those who could be considered suitors. Washington just hired Martin Mayhew, who drafted Stafford in 2009, as GM. With Deshaun Watson potentially in the trade mix as well, 2021 is shaping up as a big year for quarterback movement.
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