Matthew Stafford

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.

NFC North Notes: Lions, Stafford, Packers

Will the Lions select a quarterback with the No. 3 overall pick? Many have pondered the possibility, but GM Bob Quinn says he’s “totally comfortable and happy Matthew Stafford‘s our quarterback,” (Twitter link via SiriusXM).

He’s going to be in full health once the offseason program starts its course, he’s pretty much in full health right now,” Quinn said. “To see him in coach mode has been pretty cool because he really cares about, not only our team, but his teammates and helping those other young quarterbacks. I feel great about Matthew he’s going to come back strong and we’re ready to go for next year.”

The Lions, at least publicly, are committed to Stafford as their Week 1 starter. That won’t stop speculation about an early QB selection, however. Stafford, in theory, could be tasked with going into “coach mode” for one of this year’s top signal callers – every QB not named Joe Burrow should be there for Detroit to consider.

Here’s more from the NFC North:

  • Packers tight end Marcedes Lewis says he wants to continue playing next year. “I felt like I got into a groove with my role in this offense,” said the 35-year-old (via Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel). “It was really fun. I love the game. I knew I still had more football to give. Being in this offense and having [Matt] LaFleur and conceptually what he wanted and then having (former Jaguars offensive coordinator) [Nathaniel] Hackett here, it all went hand in hand. I just think it was a good situation. Mentally, you were coming to a place where guys cared about you, you know?” Lewis, who played in every regular season game, is ticketed for unrestricted free agency in March.
  • Ditto for Packes tackle Bryan Bulaga, who is ticketed to reach free agency just before his 31st birthday in March. The 6’5″ bulldozer says he plans to continue playing in 2020, regardless of how the offseason shakes out.

NFC North Notes: Lions, Cook, Bears

Having dealt with back trouble for two years, Matthew Stafford missed half of this season with fractures in his back. He will not undergo surgery and expects to be back in time for the start of the Lions‘ offseason program in April. Last season, Stafford played through a transverse process fracture in his back. This will be OC Darrell Bevell‘s second year in Detroit, so Stafford’s participation in the upcoming offseason program will not be as critical as last season’s attendance. Still, Detroit’s soon-to-be 32-year-old passer appears on the way back.

Oh yeah, I’ll be good to go,” Stafford said, via Justin Rogers of the Detroit News. “I feel really good, which is good. I’ve had quite a bit of rest, obviously. I think I’ll be feeling really, really good pretty darn soon, to tell you the truth.”

Shifting first to one of the division’s teams still playing, here is the latest out of the NFC North:

  • The Vikings‘ plan to sit Dalvin Cook (shoulder, chest) for the final two regular-season games looks to have paid off. Minnesota’s Pro Bowl back took part in a full practice Wednesday, putting him in line to suit up for the Vikings’ first-round game against the Saints. Alexander Mattison (ankle) was also a full participant, giving Minnesota a good chance of having the best version of its backfield in action Sunday in New Orleans.
  • The Bears quickly identified their next offensive line coach. A day after firing previous O-line instructor Harry Hiestand, Chicago will hire Juan Castillo to replace him, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). Castillo’s most recent role was with Buffalo, where he served as the Bills’ O-line coach from 2017-18, but he was on the Eagles’ staff for each of Andy Reid’s 14 years in Philadelphia. Nagy broke into coaching during those years, spending time on Reid’s final five Philly staffs. The Bears ranked 29th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards metric, with their offensive front frequently struggling to open running lanes.
  • Back to the Lions, they have starting guard Graham Glasgow set for free agency. The team moved Glasgow back to guard after he’d started at center in 2018, but this season’s Lions featured a three-guard rotation. That may or may not impact Glasgow’s offseason decision; he was non-committal about a desire to stay in Detroit. “It’s been a long year and I’d like to feel like — I’d like to kind of feel like I’m wanted, sort of,” Glasgow said, via the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett. “So, yeah. It’s been — it’s just been a long year. And ideally, I’d like to — we kind of need to talk about it.” Glasgow started 58 games with the Lions from 2016-19 and graded well, in the view of Pro Football Focus, this past season. With the guard market gravitating toward sellers in recent years, Glasgow could be in for a nice payday in March.

Packers, Aaron Rodgers Rework Deal

The Packers carved out some future cap room on Friday, with some help from Aaron Rodgers. The quarterback agreed to convert $14.26MM of his $19.5MM roster bonus into a signing bonus, which allows the club to prorate the hit over five seasons, including 2019 (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Field Yates). 

It’s a common move in the NFL – Yates notes that the Lions recently agreed to a similar adjustment with Matthew Stafford‘s 2020 roster bonus, which was slated to count for $6MM against the cap.

With the move, the Packers have carved out $11.4MM in cap space for 2020. The Lions, meanwhile, have $4.8MM to work with.

Rodgers is signed through the 2023 season thanks to the four-year, $134MM extension he inked with the Packers just prior to the 2018 season. Before the deal was revised, his contract was slated to count for more than 16% of the Packers cap next year.

With a little extra breathing room, the Packers will have more dollars to fortify their roster on the open market and retain key players, including right tackle Bryan Bulaga and defensive tackle Kenny Clark.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Lions Place Matthew Stafford On IR

The Lions have placed Matthew Stafford on IR. With that, the quarterback’s season is officially over. 

[RELATED: Lions To Retain Matt Patricia, GM Bob Quinn For 2020]

Stafford started 136 consecutive games before missing Detroit’s Week 10 contest again the Bears in November. In eight starts, the 31-year-old Stafford threw for nearly 2,500 yards, 19 touchdowns, and five interceptions while ranking eighth in ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating.

Meanwhile, the Lions have sagged to a 3-10-1 record. There was little sense in jeopardizing Stafford’s health in the final games of the season, so the move to IR was widely expected, even as Stafford pushed for a return.

“Because this is what I do,” Stafford said in November, when asked why he wants to play this year. “I understand your question, but this is what I love to do. I love playing football. I appreciate all the hard work that all the guys in this locker room and in this organization put into going out there and trying to win games on Sunday and I love being a part of that.”

“It’s tough for me to sit there without the pads on and not be able to impact the game on the field the way I’m used to doing,” Stafford said. “That’s driving me to get back out there, and whenever we all deem it’s the right time for me to get back out there, I’ll be out there.”

Stafford will be back out there in 2020, when he continues on his five-year, $135MM deal with the Lions. Stafford is tied to the club through 2022 and will count for a $31.5MM cap figure next season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Ebron, Lions, Renfrow

The Eric Ebron story took another twist this week, as his camp responded to the recent reports of disconnect between the tight end and the Colts. Soon after Ebron was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury, we heard that the Colts weren’t too happy with how everything played out. Indy’s head coach Frank Reich seemed to dispute Ebron’s account that the team was well-aware of his ankle issue, and said he had no idea anything was wrong. Ebron’s camp is now pushing back, with a source close to the UNC product telling Ian Rapoport of NFL Network that Reich “should not have been surprised” (Twitter link).

The source added that Ebron informed the Colts of his ankle issue prior to the season, and that he “took toradol shots for the injury before almost every game he played.” The implication from Indianapolis seemed to be that Ebron was essentially choosing to save himself for his impending free agency, and his camp obviously isn’t pleased with that narrative. As Stephen Holder of The Athletic summarizes in a tweet, this means that Reich is either “blatantly lying when he said he was blind sided,” or Ebron “was able to practice most of the season on a terribly painful ankle.” It’ll be interesting to see if this under the radar controversy impacts Ebron’s market this spring. The tenth overall pick of the 2014 draft had a huge first year in Indy, but had been a bit of a disappointment this season before going on IR. Given the sudden animosity between the two sides, it seems likely that he isn’t back with the Colts in 2020.

Here’s more from around the league on a quiet Saturday night:

  • It doesn’t look like Matthew Stafford is going to play for the Lions again in 2019, so his back injury is obviously legitimate. However, the league has taken issue with how Detroit went about reporting it. Stafford was a surprise scratch late in the week leading up to the team’s game against the Bears back on November 10th, and the league has determined the team was trying to gain a competitive advantage by being coy with the info. The league office has fined the organization $75K, head coach Matt Patricia $25K, and GM Bob Quinn $10K, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link).
  • When Raiders rookie receiver Hunter Renfrow went down with a rib injury and a punctured lung a couple of weeks ago, it initially looked like he’d miss the rest of the season. However, that might not be the case, per Scott Bair of NBC Sports. Renfrow hasn’t been placed on IR, and the team is holding out hope he’ll be able to return toward the end of the year. “We’re hopeful that he could return for the last game or two,” Oakland head coach Jon Gruden said, per Bair. Renfrow had really started to heat up before going down, so he would provide a big boost. The Raiders have gotten blown out in two straight games, but are still right in the thick of a very muddled AFC wildcard race at 6-6. Whether or not they’re still in the hunt for a playoff spot in the final week or two will likely determine whether or not they bring the Clemson product back.

Lions QB David Blough Expected To Start Thursday

Lions quarterback David Blough is expected to make his first career start tomorrow in place of Jeff Driskel, a source tells Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. Driskel is not expected to be able to play through a hamstring injury that’s been causing him problems.

Blough will be the third different player to start under center for the Lions. Driskel stepped in for franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford when he went down with an injury of his own. The Lions do not have another quarterback on their roster, which means tight end (and collegiate quarterback) Logan Thomas will serve as the team’s emergency backup.

An undrafted free agent out of Purdue, Blough, originally signed with the Browns. However, as roster cuts approached, the Lions agreed to swap conditional draft picks in exchange for the rookie signalcaller. Unlike Driskel, Blough is not a mobile quarterback (he ran a 4.9 40-yard dash during the draft process), and will have to rely on his skills as a pocket passer to take down the Bears.

In his first career start, Blough will be going up against one of the better defenses in football (Bears) on one of the biggest stages of the year (Thanksgiving). The pressure and bright lights will be on and he will get a chance to make an impression.

Matthew Stafford Wants To Return This Season

Although reports on Sunday indicated Matthew Stafford could miss six more weeks while dealing with fractured bones in his back, the veteran Lions quarterback says he’d still like to return this season, according to Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com.

“Because this is what I do,” Stafford said when asked why he wants to play this year. “I understand your question, but this is what I love to do. I love playing football. I appreciate all the hard work that all the guys in this locker room and in this organization put into going out there and trying to win games on Sunday and I love being a part of that.”

“It’s tough for me to sit there without the pads on and not be able to impact the game on the field the way I’m used to doing,” Stafford said. “That’s driving me to get back out there, and whenever we all deem it’s the right time for me to get back out there, I’ll be out there.”

Depending on how his recovery goes, Stafford could potentially be available for a game or two at the end of the regular season. Sitting at 3-6-1 and last place in the NFC North, Detroit has less than a 1% chance of earning a playoff berth, per FiveThirtyEight.com, so it seems unlikely the Lions’ decision-makers would allow Stafford to return to the field with nothing on the line.

Stafford had started 136 consecutive games before missing Detroit’s Week 10 contest again the Bears earlier this month. Through eight starts, the 31-year-old Stafford had thrown for nearly 2,500 yards, 19 touchdowns, and five interceptions while ranking eighth in ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.