Matthew Stafford

Lions Restructure Matthew Stafford’s Contract

The Lions have reworked QB Matthew Stafford‘s contract. Per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, the Lions will convert $7.8MM of Stafford’s 2020 base salary into a signing bonus (Twitter link).

As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press observes, Stafford’s renegotiation in 2019 gave the Lions the ability to exercise a $7.2MM option bonus by yesterday (Twitter link). That would have resulted in a $15MM total salary, so the club instead elected to make $7.8MM of that amount a signing bonus in order to spread out the cap charge a bit.

Stafford, 32, was the subject of trade speculation earlier this year, though Lions GM Bob Quinn was quick to shoot down those rumors. There was also some thought that Detroit could use its No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 draft to select a future heir to Stafford, but that didn’t happen either. As of right now, it seems as if Stafford will remain in Detroit at least through the end of his current contract, which expires after the 2022 season (with a voidable year in 2023 for cap purposes).

The No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 draft was in the midst of a very strong season in 2019 before a serious back injury suffered in November put an end to his streak of 136 consecutive starts and ultimately landed him on IR. Prior to that, he had compiled nearly 2,500 passing yards and 19 TDs against just five interceptions, good for a career-best 106.0 QB rating.

Stafford is now fully healthy and is ready to lead his team against the division-rival Bears in this afternoon’s season opener.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Place Matthew Stafford, Kenny Golladay On Reserve/COVID-19 List

TODAY: Good news for the Lions. Stafford has been removed from the COVID-19 list and has been placed back on the active roster, per a team statement. Apparently, the third test that he was required to take before entering team facilities resulted in what turned out to be a false positive, but his next three tests were all negative. Neither Stafford nor any members of his household have (or had) COVID-19.

AUGUST 1: The Lions placed Matthew Stafford on their reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday. He joins Kenny Golladay, T.J. Hockenson and Justin Coleman on Detroit’s list.

Placement on this list does not mean these players tested positive for the coronavirus. The list also includes players who are quarantining because they came in contact with someone who has tested positive. Stafford will join Golladay, Hockenson and Coleman in being away from the bulk of Lions teammates for the time being.

Thus far, Stafford is the NFL’s highest-profile player to land on the COVID list. He is, however, believed to be asymptomatic at this time, per NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter).

Cornerback Amani Oruwariye, punter Arryn Siposs, safety Jalen Elliott and tight end Isaac Nauta are also on Detroit’s reserve/COVID list. Among the Lions’ group, as of Saturday, it is known Coleman tested positive, though NFL.com reported the veteran slot corner is asymptomatic.

If Stafford tested positive, he will be required to miss at least five days. This waiting period is only for asymptomatic players. Players who test positive and have symptoms for the virus must miss at least 10 days. That number is fluid; it depends on symptoms players experience. Players who land in either category must test negative twice before rejoining the team.

In this altered training camp format, practices do not begin until Aug. 12. Full practices do not start until Aug. 17, so the Lions have a bit of time for their group of starters to return. Teams begin their strength and conditioning-based acclimation periods Monday. Of course, this all depends on the players’ issues with the virus.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Notes: COVID, Stafford, Kaepernick

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has authorized the return of professional sports, as we learned earlier this morning. She made it clear that capacity crowds will not be permitted until there is a COVID-19 vaccine, but Lions team president Rod Wood is trying to get Ford Field opened up to fans just the same. Wood released the following statement via the team’s official Twitter account.

“Governor Whitmer’s most recent Executive Order is an exciting step forward in our preparation for the 2020 season. We are working closely with her office to evaluate when and how we can safely play in front of our fans. With nearly 3 months until our regular season home opener at Ford Field, I’m optimistic and encouraged by our progress.”

It seems that most, if not all, teams will be playing in front of empty or partially-full stadiums in 2020, and Wood is hopeful that his club will be able to generate at least some gate revenue this year.

Now for more on the Lions:

  • Lions QB Matthew Stafford has been saying for some time that he is fully healthy, and the team posted a brief video clip of its signal-caller working out with teammates, which suggests that Stafford is indeed ready to go (Twitter link). While that’s certainly encouraging, it’s also notable that the workout is in contravention of the advice of NFLPA medical director Thom Mayer, who said players should not be practicing together privately. Stafford is by no means the only QB1 to be participating in workouts, and as Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com writes, the 32-year-old signal-caller has made adjustments to try and keep himself and his teammates healthy.
  • Sheila Ford Hamp will take over her mother’s duties as principal owner and chairperson of the Lions, and she said she is going to take a very hands-on approach (Twitter link via Rothstein). Given Lions fans’ general feelings towards the Ford family, that may or may not be welcome, but Hamp said her first course of business will be to meet with members of the organization’s departments that she is less familiar with. As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweets, Hamp specifically noted that she wants to learn more about the analytics side of the operation.
  • Hamp has also said that she would sign off on the team’s acquisition of QB Colin Kaepernick if her football people thought it was in the club’s best interests (video link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). The Lions, though, appear to be an imperfect schematic fit for Kaepernick, and in any event, neither Detroit nor any other club has reached out to him yet.

Lions’ Matthew Stafford Says He’s Staying

The Lions checked in with Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa before the draft, fueling some speculation about Matthew Stafford‘s future. Meanwhile, the Staffords have put their Detroit-area home up for sale. This week, the quarterback and his wife shot down any talk of a job-related relocation.

[RELATED: Lions To Play In Empty Stadium?]

I pay less attention to (the trade rumors) than my wife does,” Stafford said Thursday (via Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com). “But it’s something that doesn’t bother me. Listen, I’m here, I want to be here. I love being a Detroit Lion, I love leading this team.”

The Stafford family put their five-bedroom, seven-bathroom home on the market. The lakefront home features an infinity swimming pool and an indoor basketball court partially fashioned with the Pistons’ original hardwood floor at the Pontiac Silverdome. In case you’re interested in this little fixer-upper of a summer shack, the asking price is $6.5MM. And, don’t worry, the Staffords aren’t looking to leave Michigan.

No speculation is needed. We’re about to have our fourth child and I personally do not want to live on a lake or have a pool with four children [under the age of 4],” Kelly Stafford said on Instagram (h/t Rothstein). “So that is the reason that it is on the market.”

The Lions front office has also repeatedly shot down the possibility of moving on from Stafford. Yes, he’s 32 and, yes, he did miss half of the 2019 season, but he enjoyed a 136-game streak of consecutive starts before the back problems surfaced. And, in his eight starts, he threw for nearly 2,500 yards, 19 touchdowns, and five interceptions while ranking No. 8 in ESPN’s Total QB Rating.

This year, he’s set to be on the Lions’ payroll for $21.3MM. After that, his cap number moves to $33MM in 2021. They may have liked Herbert, Tagovailoa, and some of the other QBs in this year’s draft class, but Stafford is the quarterback who gives them the best chance to win in 2020. For his part, Stafford says the speculation doesn’t bother him very much.

I really don’t pay too much attention to ’em,” Stafford said of the talk. “I pay less attention to them than my wife does. But it’s something that doesn’t bother me. I’m here. I want to be here. I love being a Detroit Lion. I love leading this team. So all that kind of stuff is just kind of out there to be out there. It’s a slow news month at that point, and I’m just happy to be where I am and ready to deal with this offseason the way it is and try to make the best of the season that I hope happens.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC North Notes: Packers, Stafford, Bears

Bryan Bulaga did not quite make it to free agency in 2015; the Packers extended their starting right tackle at the 11th hour. This time, he could be on the move. The 10-year veteran is expected to generate immense interest, with Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com tweeting the Bulaga market should come in around $12MM per year. Bulaga signed for five years and $33.75MM five years ago, so this would mark a substantial raise for the veteran. Despite going into his 11th year, Bulaga will only be 31 come Week 1. After more injury trouble surfaced in 2017, he has played in 30 of a possible 32 regular-season games since.

Here is the latest from the NFC North:

  • The Lions appear likely to have their quarterback back in time for OTAs. Matthew Stafford has healed up from the back injury that ended his 2019 season, according to his wife (Instagram link). Kelly Stafford indicated her husband has been healed for several weeks now. Kelly recently refuted a report the Staffords wanted out of Detroit, and GM Bob Quinn said the Lions are not shopping him. While this still figures to be a key year for the longest-tenured starting quarterback in Lions history, Stafford should be able to throw come April.
  • If the Raiders make Derek Carr available, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune expects the Bears to show interest. The Bears are interested in bringing in competition for Mitchell Trubisky; Carr might be overqualified for such a role. The third-place MVP finisher in 2016 posted the NFL’s 10th-best QBR last season — well north of Trubisky, whose 39.5 figure ranked third-to-last. Carr carries a non-guaranteed contract; he is set to earn $18.9MM in 2020 base salary. That price comes in $1.4MM higher than Dalton’s.
  • Do not expect a reunion between the Vikings and Mike Remmers. Even if the team makes left tackle Riley Reiff a cap casualty and moves right tackle Brian O’Neill to that spot, Chris Tomasson notes the Vikings are not expected to be interested in a low-cost Remmers deal (Twitter link). Remmers was Minnesota’s right tackle starter from 2017-18 and will not return to the Giants next season.
  • The Packers recently added to their coaching staff, with Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweeting the team hired Butch Barry as a senior assistant. A Wisconsin native, Barry was the Buccaneers’ assistant offensive line coach from 2015-18. He spent the 2019 season as the Miami Hurricanes’ offensive line coach.
  • Additionally, the Packers promoted second-year staffer Jason Vrable from offensive assistant to wide receivers coach, the team announced. Vrable has not coached a position since serving as the Bills’ assistant QBs coach for part of the 2016 season. Otherwise, he’s spent his career as an offensive assistant or a quality control staffer.

Jeff Driskel Expected To Have Strong Market

Lions backup quarterback Jeff Driskel is expected to have a “plump” free-agent market for his services, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Birkett notes that as the NFL becomes more open to dual-threat quarterbacks, Driskel’s skill set has become more desirable to NFL teams.

The former Florida quarterback appears well-positioned to secure a backup job after vagabonding around the league since the 49ers selected him in the 6th round of the 2016 NFL Draft. After failing to make the 49ers 53-man roster, the Bengals claimed him off waivers and he served as depth in Cincinnati behind Andy Dalton and A.J. McCarron.

Following the 2017 season, McCarron signed with the Bills and Dalton became the primary backup behind Dalton. In 2018, Driskel began contributing in sub-packages where the team utilized his athleticism. An injury to Dalton allowed Driskel to make five starts as well. He finished the season completing 105 of 176 passes for 1003 yards, 6 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, with 130 rushing yards on 30 carries.

Last season, with the Lions, Driskel was the first to step in for Matthew Stafford after his injury. He made three starts before a hamstring injury of his own ended his season. He completed 62 of 105 passes for 685 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions with 151 rushing yards on 22 attempts.

QB Rumors: Stafford, Dalton, Saints

A rumor surfaced recently indicating the Lions discussed a Matthew Stafford trade. GM Bob Quinn denied this, and multiple key parties were quick to state the 11-year veteran quarterback does not want to leave Detroit. Stafford’s agent, Tom Condon, informed NFL.com’s Michael Silver his client does not want a trade (Twitter link). The quarterback’s wife, Kelly Stafford, shared on her Instagram (Twitter links via the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett) they are not angling for a new NFL city. Matthew Stafford, 32, is under contract for three more seasons.

Here is the latest from the quarterback realm, moving to a passer who very much is available for trade:

  • Despite the Saints set to start a 41-year-old Drew Brees and apply a high tender to intriguing gadget player/backup Taysom Hill, they may not be prepared to draft a passer this year. Although some mock drafts have the Saints taking Utah State’s Jordan Love, Larry Holder of The Athletic notes (subscription required) the Saints do not appear to be interested. The Saints hold the No. 24 pick in the draft, and it might now be a surprise to see Love still on the board at that point.
  • Brees-Hill 2020 looks like the Saints’ plan. Combine buzz centered around Bridgewater’s next team, with Holder speaking to no NFL decision-maker who expected Brees’ backup of the past two years to return. Sean Payton said it would be unrealistic for the Saints to bring back all three, and Bridgewater is expected to receive interest as a starter in free agency. The Bears, Buccaneers, Chargers, Panthers and Patriots may possess some interest, Holder hears. Though, unlike Tom Brady and Philip Rivers, no team has been connected to Bridgewater yet.
  • Like Brady and Rivers, Andy Dalton has also been connected to a team. The Bears discussed a trade with the Bengals but may have to battle other teams for the nine-year veteran starter. Dalton’s agent has been working with the Bengals on potential Dalton deals, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com names the Colts and Patriots — in addition to the Bears — as teams who could potentially have interest in the contract-year passer (video link). The Colts have been connected to Rivers at multiple junctures this week, while some around the league have indeed viewed New England as a landing spot for Dalton if Brady does decide to defect in free agency. Cincinnati and New England have made multiple trades involving high-profile Bengals, and the same two decision-makers — Mike Brown and Bill Belichick — remain in place from when Corey Dillon and Chad Johnson were dealt to New England in 2004 and 2011, respectively.

QB Notes: Hill, Stafford, Winston

Saints quarterback/athlete Taysom Hill has been the center of quite a bit of early offseason buzz. While the free-agent quarterback class is highlighted by the likes of Tom Brady and Drew Brees, a third-string quarterback, who threw just 14 passes last season, has dominated conversations. Hill has sparked a fervent debate around whether he has a future as a franchise quarterback, or is just a valuable weapon to deploy in certain packages. In an in-depth look at the situation, Katherine Terrell of The Athletic, dives into his circumstances and makes the case for Hill.

Here are some more quarterback notes from around the league:

  • Some early offseason murmurs suggested that Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford could be on the trade block. Detroit general manager Bob Quinn was quick to shoot down the reports. Of course, it would not be the first time a personnel official has denied a player’s availability before subsequently moving them. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press analyzes the decision from all angles to make the case in favor and against keeping Stafford.
  • Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports argues that the Buccaneers need to find a way to keep free-agent quarterback Jameis Winston. Winston, of course, became just the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions (joining Vinny Testaverde). There’s no denying that Winston has had his flashes on the field, but a history of off-field issues and a historic propensity for turnovers make the decision far from straight forward.

Lions Shoot Down Matthew Stafford Trade Talk

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Rumors: Glasgow, Stafford, Staff, Draft

The Lions will fill the offensive line coach post vacated by Jeff Davidson stepping away from coaching by promoting Hank Fraley, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. Fraley spent the past two seasons as Detroit’s assistant O-line coach and served in that role for the Vikings previously. The former NFL veteran has been a team’s top offensive line coach three times, but each occurred at California colleges — the University of San Diego, San Jose State and UCLA — and each stay lasted one season. Fraley, 42, spent three seasons with the Vikings. Davidson is coaching as part of the Lions’ Senior Bowl staff but will not return for the 2020 season.

Here is the latest out of Detroit:

  • After some murky comments about his Detroit future in the season’s immediate aftermath, Graham Glasgow could well be a starter somewhere else in 2020. The Lions are expected to let Glasgow walk in free agency, Birkett adds. While they would still have four of their five starting offensive linemen back, Glasgow has been a productive player for years and would profile as one of the better blockers available come March. Working in a three-guard rotation with Joe Dahl and Kenny Wiggins, Glasgow rated as Pro Football Focus’ No. 12 guard this season.
  • Although Patricia gave Paul Pasqualoni play-calling responsibilities in his two-year stay as Lions defensive coordinator, it is not yet known if new Detroit DC Cory Undlin will call plays. As of now, Undlin has “no idea” if he will be calling the signals next season, per Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com. The Lions fell from 10th to 31st in total defense in Pasqualoni’s second season in charge, though DVOA rated Detroit’s defense as a bottom-end unit (27th and 28th) in each of the ex-Syracuse HC’s two years running the unit.
  • Given the Lions’ endorsement of Matthew Stafford, and the hot seats Patricia and GM Bob Quinn are on, the draft’s No. 3 overall pick could be for sale. While Patricia said (via Birkett) it is too early to declare the team open for business at No. 3, his and Quinn’s comments about Stafford’s status point to the Lions as a candidate to move down and collect assets from a team eyeing Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert. Patricia does not expect Stafford’s injury issues over the past two years to affect how the Lions proceed in the draft.