Speculation surrounding Matthew Stafford‘s future in Detroit has percolated since the offseason began. Sitting with the No. 3 overall pick, some supposed thinkers have suggested it could be time for the Lions to move on from their starting quarterback.
Wednesday night brought a report from WDIV-TV in Detroit that trade talks regarding the quarterback have been underway for a couple of weeks.
The Lions swiftly pounced to reject the report.
The double exclamation points could feel like a ‘doth protest too much’ moment if we didn’t delve too far into considering why a Stafford trade makes little sense for Detroit.
Perhaps there is an argument for the Lions to move on after 11 seasons and nary a single playoff win. Despite a trove of veteran quarterbacks available this offseason, the 32-year-old QB could certainly fetch a stellar price if up for auction. Pick up a few quality draft picks and select your next signal-caller of the future.
If that’s about as far as you go in analyzing a potential Stafford trade, it makes a lot of sense. You’ve got your fodder for your blathering TV show.
Dig deeper, and you’ll find plenty of stronger reasons Stafford isn’t going anywhere.
First off, follow the money. Always. Follow. The. Money. Always.
In December, the Lions did a simple restructure of Stafford’s contract, converting a roster bonus into a signing bonus. The move saved Detroit $9 million in cap space in 2020. However, it also means that if Stafford is cut or traded this year, the Lions would eat $32 million in dead money. His cap hit is $21.3 million if he plays in Detroit. That $10.7 million difference underscores that the Lions have planned for Stafford to be their QB even late in the season when he was injured, and the team was already destined for a high draft pick.
Next, consider owner Martha Firestone Ford’s mandate to coach Matt Patricia and Quinn to win now or else they’ll be looking for new jobs in 2021. Even if a new shiny QB would make the Lions more interesting, Stafford gives them the best chance to win this season. Couple that with Stafford looking the best he has in years under Darrell Bevell until the back injury popped up and you’ve got ample reason to think the Lions believe they can win now with the veteran QB.
There is also the issue of which QB they’d seek. If it’s Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, he might need to sit a year before he’s fully healed from his hip injury. In that case, even if the Lions selected Tua, keeping Stafford as an expensive one-year tutor makes sense. Also, given that Detroit holds the No. 3 pick, any trade of Stafford before it’s on the clock would give other QB-needy teams (and there are plenty) time to try to move up to No. 2 in a trade with the Washington Redskins to swipe Tua or any other quarterback.
Perhaps Kelly Stafford, sitting in Metro Detroit snow showers in 30-degree weather could imagine a trade to L.A., but there are plenty of reasons to believe the Stafford family getting traded would make little sense for an organization that historically has a habit of miscalculating its moves.