Matthew Stafford

Matthew Stafford Nixed Trade To Panthers

Shortly after the Rams acquired quarterback Matthew Stafford via trade from the Lions, Stafford admitted that there were teams he did not want to play for. We recently heard that one of those teams was the Panthers, but we did not know how close Detroit and Carolina came to a deal.

As Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports, many believed that the Panthers — who were aggressive in their pursuit and who offered their first-round pick (No. 8 overall), a fifth-rounder, and Teddy Bridgewater — would be the ones to land Stafford. Indeed, the deal was reportedly just about done. But when Stafford learned of his would-be new home, he consulted with his family and told Lions brass that he did not want to go to Carolina.

Though the No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 draft did not have a no-trade clause, the Lions heeded his wishes. The 49ers and Colts were also said to be on Stafford’s list of approved destinations, but Rapoport hears that he would have tried to veto any trade that would have sent him anywhere other than the Rams. If Los Angeles’ offer did not compare with those of other suitors, Detroit probably would not have been able to accommodate the former face of its franchise, but ultimately the Rams ponied up two future first-rounders, a third-rounder, and Jared Goff, which the Lions determined was a good enough return.

By all accounts, Stafford had a terrific training camp, and his first season with his new team kicks off tonight against the Bears (who also pursued a trade for their longtime division rival).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers, Colts Were Also On Matthew Stafford’s Destination List

The Rams paying up for Matthew Stafford led to numerous quarterback dominoes falling this offseason. Stafford is close to debuting with the Rams, who are among the NFC frontrunners, but he would have been fine being traded to two other teams earlier this year.

After Stafford asked the Lions to trade him in January, he listed the 49ers and Colts — in that order — behind the Rams on his destination wish list, according to Seth Wickersham of ESPN.com. Both teams entered the sweepstakes, with Kyle Shanahan confirming the 49ers’ interest, but neither’s offer approached the Rams’ proposal of two future first-rounders and change.

The Colts discussed Stafford with the Lions but were a bit leery about the 33-year-old passer’s long-term trajectory. They are not believed to have offered their 2021 first-round pick for the 12-year veteran. Indianapolis ended up sending Philadelphia a 2021 third-rounder and a 2022 pick that could well become a first for Carson Wentz. The 49ers were not believed to have been one of the six-plus teams to submit offers for Stafford, though Shanahan studied the QB while he was on the trade block and expressed disappointment upon learning the Rams acquired him. San Francisco then traded two future firsts and change to move up to No. 3 overall for Trey Lance.

Stafford also said there were teams he wanted to avoid. The Patriots are believed to be one, and Wickersham adds the Panthers were another. Carolina did offer its first-round pick — No. 8 overall — along with Teddy Bridgewater and a fifth-rounder. Carolina’s involvement here eventually led to Bridgewater being traded to another unsuccessful Stafford suitor — Denver — and Sam Darnold going to the Panthers. The Rams acquiring Stafford also led Washington, which offered its first-round pick as well, to move elsewhere. The Lions-Rams deal certainly served as the 2021 offseason’s pivot point.

Although Stafford did not have a no-trade clause, the Lions accommodated him after a lengthy January meeting when he asked to be dealt. Stafford initially went to Lions ownership about the trade request, Wickersham adds, noting that the team execs in that meeting were surprised but understood the veteran passer’s position as another rebuild approached.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Shanahan: 49ers Aimed To Acquire Matthew Stafford

During a year of major quarterback movement, the 49ers experienced a particularly interesting offseason. San Francisco surrendered a historic haul to move up for Trey Lance. Had the Matthew Stafford sweepstakes ended a bit differently, Lance would be preparing to take the starting reins for another team.

Kyle Shanahan confirmed the 49ers were in the mix for Stafford. The fifth-year HC spent multiple weeks studying Stafford, whom the Lions made available in late January. The 49ers are one of several teams to be interested in the former No. 1 overall pick, but the Rams ended up finalizing an agreement to land him on the night of Jan. 30 — to Shanahan’s chagrin.

I was studying it all. … I remember looking through it because everybody was telling me it was a possibility,” Shanahan said, during an appearance on The Ringer’s Flying Coach podcast with Sean McVay and Peter Schrager (via NFL.com), of a potential trade to acquire the 12-year veteran. “Stafford’s the man. I studied him hard coming out of college, and you always play against him, so you know how good he is.

“But to know he might be available and to spend two weeks really watching him, Sean, yeah, he’s better than I realized.”

The 49ers are not believed to have made a firm offer for Stafford, but the 33-year-old passer knew of San Francisco’s interest. Washington and Carolina did make offers — each involving first-round picks and change — while Denver’s proposal included a first-round pick swap. At least six teams sent the Lions proposals. The Rams ponied up for Stafford to replace Jared Goff, sending Goff, two first-rounders and a 2021 third for Detroit’s longtime starter.

That was frustrating. I was in Cabo,” Shanahan said of the Rams’ acquiring Stafford, who joined McVay in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, at the time of the agreement as well. “… I remember Saturday I was so stressed out and finally we talked to someone, it was seven at night, and they’re like, ‘No, nothing’s happening (with a trade) at the earliest until tomorrow, so you can finish your night.’

Half an hour later, my buddy calls me and is like, ‘I’m just telling ya, if you want Stafford, you need to get a hold of him right now.’ I’m like, ‘What do you mean? We just talked to people. I can sleep on this. We’ll talk to them tomorrow.’ ‘I’m just telling you, you need to talk to him right now.’ And then it was all over.”

McVay added that the Rams-Lions trade came together faster than he expected. The Rams are now eyeing a five- to eight-year partnership with their recently acquired QB.

January’s Stafford proceedings led the 49ers to look to the draft for a potential upgrade on Jimmy Garoppolo. They joined the Rams in trading their 2022 and ’23 first-round picks for a quarterback, sending those to the Dolphins to move up nine spots for Lance. If the 49ers’ plans go accordingly, the NFC West will feature Stafford-Lance matchups for the next several years. The teams’ competition for Stafford certainly adds intrigue to this rivalry.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Broncos’ QB Plans

Several teams have already made big splashes under center this offseason, but the Broncos have been mostly quiet. That could change soon.

Denver “isn’t sitting still at the position,” Albert Breer of SI.com writes. Breer lays out details of the Broncos’ pursuits we haven’t heard before, including the previously unreported full offer they made for Matthew Stafford. The Broncos apparently did in fact offer the ninth overall pick to the Lions, but they wanted a second-rounder back in return which quelled those talks.

Breer thinks they’ll add competition for Drew Lock in one form or another, and he mentions the Panthers’ Teddy Bridgewater as a potential option. As he points out, new Broncos GM George Paton was in Minnesota when the Vikings drafted Bridgewater in the first-round. On that note, Breer has some interesting thoughts on the makeup of Denver’s new front office.

The fact that the team isn’t committing to Lock is “a pretty decent sign that John Elway has truly moved into the background,” Breer writes. He also thinks Denver’s lack of real interest in Sam Darnold is a telling sign that Elway isn’t calling the shots, since Elway was infatuated with Darnold coming out of college in 2018.

The team hired Paton to be GM earlier this offseason, with Elway getting elevated to President of Football Operations. At the time there were murmurs about how much power Elway would actually be ceding and how much he would still control the organization, but it sounds like he truly has relinquished the reins.

Snead: Rams Eyeing 5-8 Years With Stafford

Matthew Stafford‘s contract runs through the 2022 season. The Rams managed to navigate the primary free agency period without reducing their new quarterback’s cap number, but they are interested in extending Stafford.

Les Snead provided a timeline for the team’s future with Stafford. Snead envisions the 2009 No. 1 overall pick playing for the Rams well beyond his current contract, which would make sense given the cost to acquire him — multiple future first-rounders and change. The 2021 season will be Stafford’s age-33 campaign.

I don’t think we did it thinking two years,” Snead said of the trade during an appearance on The Athletic’s 11 Personnel podcast (via Rams Wire). “Based on his age, you can legitimately think five to seven, eight years if you look at what Drew (Brees) has done. I don’t know if we’re going to get into Tom Brady, right? Too many things going. But with quarterbacks of his pedigree, a lot of those guys have played into their late 30s, for sure. So that was definitely the vision with Matt.”

The Rams do not have modern experience deploying quarterbacks with Stafford’s experience. Under Snead, the team’s two primary passers — Sam Bradford and Jared Goff — did not last until age 28 with the team. Kurt Warner was out of St. Louis at 32, before his seventh NFL season. Stafford turned 33 earlier this year and has battled injuries in recent years. He missed eight games because of a back malady in 2019 — his first absences since 2011 — and detailed a few issues that bothered him last year. Stafford underwent thumb surgery recently.

Stafford’s recent injuries notwithstanding, the Rams are committed to the 12-year Lions starter. While Goff and Sean McVay‘s relationship progressively deteriorated last year, Snead insists the Rams did not want to jettison the former No. 1 overall pick for the sake of doing so. Stafford being available changed the equation.

To do a move of that magnitude involving quarterbacks, specifically involving Jared, there definitely needed to be a Matthew Stafford on the other end,” Snead said. “We were not going to be stronger by moving Jared for a draft pick, per se. That wasn’t the case, and I think it did take someone of Matt Stafford’s pedigree, ability, experience, all those things, skill set to make that move.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC West Notes: Fitzgerald, Stafford, Everett

When the Cardinals signed A.J. Green last month, all eyes turned to Larry Fitzgerald and his place on the team. Although the legendary receiver hasn’t made his intentions known just yet, it appears he’s headed in the direction of hanging up his cleats. “Execs anticipate” that Fitzgerald, who is unsigned for 2021, is going to retire, Mike Sando of The Athletic writes. This stops short of being a full-on report, but it certainly sounds like that’s the way things are trending.

With Green now in the fold alongside the returning DeAndre Hopkins and Christian Kirk, the Cardinals’ receiving room would be pretty crowded if Fitz wanted to give it one last go. The surefire future Hall of Famer played in 13 games for Arizona last year, racking up 54 catches for 409 yards and a touchdown. It was easily the lowest output of his decorated 17-year career. We should know more soon, but unfortunately it seems likely we’ve seen the Pittsburgh product play his final down.

Here’s more from around the NFC West on a quiet Sunday afternoon:

  • Matthew Stafford was banged up a lot during his last season with the Lions, and he just had a procedure to address one of those lingering injuries. The new Rams quarterback had surgery on the thumb of his throwing hand last month, a source told Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic. Fortunately, Rodrigue reports it was just a simple cleanup and Stafford isn’t expected to miss any real practice time. Stafford said back in February that he had partially torn the UCL in his right thumb. Despite dealing with a slew of significant health issues, he didn’t miss a start last season.
  • The Seahawks signed away tight end Gerald Everett from the Rams in free agency, and it turns out a prior poaching played a large role in that. Seattle hired former Rams passing game coordinator Shane Waldron to be their new OC after firing Brian Schottenheimer, and Waldron played a role in delivering Everett. “Shane is a mastermind,” Everett said, via John Boyle of the team’s official site. “He’s very creative, and I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do in Seattle… When Shane went to Seattle, obviously the idea was there, it lingered in my head.” Everett was a second-round pick of Los Angeles in 2017, and although he never put up huge numbers in Rams offenses that had a lot of mouths to feed, he flashed a lot of potential. “Yes, he was a factor in my decision to come to Seattle,” Everett said of Waldron. The Seahawks gave him a one-year, $7MM deal in March.
  • In case you missed it, the 49ers are asking for a first-round pick in exchange for Jimmy Garoppolo.

QB Notes: Goff, Rams, Lions, Fields, Hawks

Had John Wolford made it through the Rams‘ wild-card win over the Seahawks healthy, Sean McVay was prepared to start him over Jared Goff against the Packers (assuming the Rams would have won in Round 1 with their backup), Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com notes. Wolford suffered a first-quarter neck injury that brought Goff back into action. McVay decided shortly after the Rams’ Week 17 game that Wolford would start over Goff in Seattle, despite not yet gauging Goff’s progress after thumb surgery. Considering the disparity between Goff and Wolford’s contracts and the nature of their arrivals — the former a No. 1 overall pick and the latter a UDFA who played in the Alliance of American Football — the gap between them narrowing to this degree is striking.

McVay and Goff’s relationship deteriorated over the course of the 2020 season, and the Los Angeles HC openly pondered if the Rams could return to a Super Bowl with Goff at the controls, Thiry adds. While Matthew Stafford will provide the Rams with a considerable upgrade in arm strength, Thiry notes McVay’s issues with Goff did not stem from his arm talent. But Goff’s inconsistency resulted in him dropping from 10th in QBR in 2018 to 22nd in ’19 and 23rd last season. The former No. 1 overall pick will receive a fresh start in Detroit.

Here is the latest from the quarterback world:

  • A month away from the draft, teams are not in agreement on Justin Fields‘ stock, according to NFL.com’s Gil Brandt. The Ohio State passer may well be a top-five pick, and Brandt has him ranked seventh in this class. But some teams have placed the two-year Buckeyes starter well below that level, the Hall of Fame scout adds (Twitter links). In Brandt’s view, the 49ers likely did not trade up to No. 3 overall to select Fields. Trey Lance and Mac Jones loom as the other high-end quarterback prospects expected to be available for the 49ers.
  • The 2021 third-round draft choice the Rams are sending the Lions in the Goff-Stafford trade landed at No. 101 overall, according to the NFL transaction wire. The Rams will retain their original third-round pick (88th overall) and also still hold the No. 103 pick, obtained from the league after the Lions hired former Rams college scouting director Brad Holmes as GM.
  • A man has accused Seahawks quarterback Alex McGough of punching him in the face on St. Patrick’s Day, TMZ reports. McGough, 25, allegedly punched Anthony Albino at a bar last week in a dispute related to McGough’s girlfriend. Albino intends to press charges, according to TMZ. The Seahawks drafted McGough in the 2018 seventh round, but he has bounced around the league. Seattle reacquired McGough in December of last year.

Rams Eyeing Matthew Stafford Extension Or Restructure

The Rams traded two first-round picks and change to acquire Matthew Stafford, so it would stand to reason they are planning to commit to the former Lions starter long-term. But after the trade, a new contract was not viewed as an immediate priority.

Stafford’s 2017 extension runs through the 2022 season; $43MM remains on the deal. However, the Rams are more than $30MM over the low-end salary cap projection ($180MM) and could benefit by a Stafford extension lowering his 2021 cap hit. The team plans to address Stafford’s contract, be it through an extension or restructure, according to The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue (subscription required).

At the time of signing, Stafford’s $27MM-per-year deal raised the then-stagnant QB market by $2MM. That began a hotbed of activity, which included the Rams’ ill-fated $33.5MM-per-year deal for Jared Goff, and Deshaun Watson‘s $39MM-AAV pact now tops the market (for conventional, non-Patrick Mahomes QB contracts). Given the price the Rams paid, Stafford would have some leverage in extension talks — should he choose to exercise it.

The 33-year-old passer is only set to count $20MM against the Rams’ 2021 cap, though a base-to-signing bonus restructure could lower that in a non-extension scenario. The Lions already restructured Stafford’s contract, adding a void year. A Stafford extension would align with that of his new receivers — Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, whose 2020 extensions run through 2025 and 2023, respectively — and defensive cornerstones Aaron Donald (through 2024) and Jalen Ramsey (through ’25). Putting Stafford on the same timeline has factored into his equation, per Rodrigue.

It seems the Rams will be approaching their new quarterback soon, and other restructures should be on tap considering the team’s current cap situation.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC South Rumors: Texans, Watt, Colts

Although the breaking point for Deshaun Watson came when the Texans did not keep him in the loop on their hires this offseason, he shared his frustration to coaches and management after last year’s DeAndre Hopkins trade. Then-Texans GM Bill O’Brien assured Watson he would be kept abreast on big-picture decisions going forward, according to Mike Sando, Aaron Reiss and Jason Jenks of The Athletic (subscription required). Watson voicing those concerns following the Hopkins swap also led to the no-trade clause in his Texans extension. However, the quarterback became further disillusioned with the franchise as the regular season progressed. After the Texans’ losses piled up and Cal McNair fired O’Brien, Watson questioned the team’s direction, per The Athletic. Shortly before Watson signed his extension, he said he “loved” the McNairs, the organization and Houston. The Texans have insisted they are not interested in trading Watson, but several teams are interested. And the three-time Pro Bowler has shown no indication he will back down.

Here is the latest from the AFC South:

  • Watson’s longtime teammate, J.J. Watt, has been on the market a week. He has been connected to a few teams, including the Titans. After GM Jon Robinson confirmed the team had engaged in discussions with Watt, Mike Vrabel — Watt’s former defensive coordinator in Houston — addressed the possibility of a signing. “You mentioned J.J. Watt, and there will be other veteran players that become available that we’ll have discussions on, and we have had discussions on J.J. Watt,” Vrabel said during a call with season-ticket holders. “… There’s a lot of things that go into bringing in free agents, certainly ones that are past 30 or in the back half of their career.” Vrabel was the Texans’ linebackers coach from 2014-16 and DC in 2017. The Titans signed ex-Vrabel charge Jadeveon Clowney last year, but he is on track for free agency. And Tennessee’s pass rush remains in need of bolstering.
  • Although Matthew Stafford viewed the Colts as a possibility during his time on the trade block, Indianapolis did not offer its first-round pick for the 12-year Detroit starter. Washington and Carolina offered first-rounders and change, while the Rams won out with their monster proposal. The Colts, though, were a bit concerned about the 33-year-old quarterback’s level of play and whether it would end up being worth a big trade package, Stephen Holder of The Athletic notes. Frank Reich‘s history with Carson Wentz undoubtedly played a key role in the Colts taking a gamble on the longtime Eagles starter, and the team ended up retaining its 2021 first- and second-round picks in doing so.
  • The Texans are hiring former Lions character coach Dylan Thompson for a similar role, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. A former UDFA quarterback who moved to an off-field NFL role, Thompson is a friend of embattled Texans executive VP Jack Easterby‘s, Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk notes. His relationship with Easterby helped lead to his job in Detroit and previously with the Charleston Southern basketball program.

NFC West Notes: Rams, Jones, 49ers, LeBron

Marvin Jones exited his ninth NFL season without a playoff win, and the former Bengals and Lions wideout is looking for a championship contender to become his third team. His most recent quarterback is already pitching him on a trip to Los Angeles. Matthew Stafford called Jones about teaming up with the Rams, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes. The soon-to-be 31-year-old receiver, however, is believed to have interest in joining the Dolphins and Jaguars. Jones played out a five-year contract with the Lions, with Stafford being his primary QB. The Rams are not exactly in position to be chasing higher-end free agents, being more than $30MM over the cap as of Friday. And the team has Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp signed long-term, with Van Jefferson under team control through 2023. But the Stafford move shows the Rams are making a big push. Through that lens, Jones would make sense as an auxiliary option.

Here is the latest from the NFC West:

  • The 49ers are facing a tough situation with Dee Ford, who is battling a back injury that sidelined him for 15 games last season. If the former Pro Bowl pass rusher is not healthy by April 1, his $11.6MM injury guarantee becomes fully guaranteed. With John Lynch indicating recently Ford may not be ready by the 2021 season, per Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area, it appears safe to assume the 49ers will eat that cap charge. This is a somewhat similar situation to Ford’s 2018 offseason, when the Chiefs were forced to pick up Ford’s fifth-year option because he was unable to pass a physical. The 49ers restructured Ford’s contract last year, ballooning his 2021 cap number to $20.1MM — second on the team. The most San Francisco could save with a Ford cut would be $3.7MM, in a post-June 1 transaction.
  • A more proven pass rusher does not have to worry about any release. Asked about an NFL.com list of prospective cap casualties that included Chandler Jones, Cardinals GM Steve Keim rejected the notion that is on the table during an appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM (via the Arizona Republic). Jones is due to count $20.8MM against Arizona’s 2021 cap. The two-time All-Pro is entering the final season of a $16.5MM-per-year deal that has fallen to 13th among edge rushers, pointing to a potential extension that would lower his cap hit.
  • A year prior to the Seahawks‘ run of playoff appearances, they reached out to a notable ex-wide receiver about potentially joining a then-Tarvaris Jackson-quarterbacked team. LeBron James confirmed that, in addition to the Cowboys contacting him about a tryout, the Seahawks did the same during the 2011 NBA lockout. Then in his second year as Seattle’s HC, Pete Carroll shipped James a custom Seahawks jersey along with the workout invite. “I would have tried out, but I would have made the team,” James said, via The Athletic’s Christopher Kamrani and Bill Oram (subscription required). “I don’t mind working for something, so if I would have had to try out for the Cowboys or the Seahawks, or if I’d have stayed home and went back home to Cleveland, I’d have tried (out), but I would have made the team.” Some close to James, 26 during the lockout, convinced him not to go through with NFL workouts. The NBA legend received significant recruiting interest as a wideout at St. Vincent-St. Mary High in Akron but quit the sport ahead of his senior year.