Stafford On the Move, Where and How It Effects Bears
Matthew Stafford, the former #1 overall pick and 12-year veteran is finally demanding his way out of Detroit. He has played under Jim Schwartz, Jim Caldwell, Matt Patricia, Darrell Bevell, and Robert Prince as his head coaches, and the news comes just a few days after Detroit announced they would be hiring New Orleans Saints assistant head coach, Dan Campbell, to serve as the team’s next head coach. Over the course of his twelve seasons, Stafford has made the playoffs just three times (2011, 2014, and 2016). The Lions have lost all three first round games, and only one being by one score or less (20-24 @ Dallas in 2014).
What makes this situation very interesting is the way Stafford’s contract is worked out. There is an out clause for the team built into his original five-year contract that would allow Detroit to release him, but according to Billy Heyen of Sporting News, exercising this option would leave the Lions with almost $25M in dead cap money, which would also be the most dead cap money taken on in league history by any team. It would not nearly be as much as the Lions would have to pay Stafford out should they keep the disgruntled veteran, but at the same time, a rebuilding team such as Detroit can’t afford to take on that much dead cap space while the Packers remain a juggernaut, and the Bears and Vikings are continuously improving.
Nevertheless, both Stafford and the Lions have agreed to mutually part ways, and I fully expect the Lions to be pushing hard for a trade. There’s no doubt Detroit will have to eat some of Stafford’s salary in any trade scenario, but I can’t envision them wanting to just cut Stafford and get nothing for him
How Does This Effect Chicago?
The Bears have proven that they enjoy beating up on Detroit’s back up QBs, and they struggle against Stafford. He helped the Lions put Chicago down 23-6 entering the fourth quarter in Week 1 this past season before finally dominating the Bears in Week 13 getting that elusive win against the Bears with over 400 yards passing and 3 touchdown passes. It’s safe to say Bears fans will not miss him. In an offseason where Chicago has quarterback issues of their own to figure out, it always helps to have a division rival going through a similar situation. Chicago’s team as a whole does not have nearly as many holes to fill this offseason, while Detroit keeps falling further and further down the rabbit hole.
Potential Trade Destinations:
In an offseason where Deshaun Watson was already the hot ticketed item in trade discussions, Stafford serves as a quarterback who will not demand as much of a return as the king’s ransom Watson will garner. I’m going to rank my top-5 landing spots for Stafford based on realistic analysis.
#1 (Most Likely): Indianapolis Colts:
The Colts have been in a weird flux ever since Andrew Luck announced his retirement in the middle of a preseason football game prior to the 2019 season. This unexpected announcement took the Colts by surprise, as they had to roll with Jacoby Brissett that season, and then opted for a Band-Aid this year by signing longtime veteran QB, Philip Rivers to helm the team in 2020. Rivers has retired and Brissett is set to hit free agency. The Colts only QB on the roster is Jacob Eason, whom they drafted in the fourth round of last year’s draft. A trade for Stafford is very realistic in this scenario as they draft too late (Pick #21) to get a chance at Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, and probably Mac Jones at this point. Trading for Stafford will cost the team less than it would to move up in the draft, and with TY Hilton’s contract coming off the books, Indianapolis is also in position to go get Stafford’s favorite target in free agency, Kenny Golladay.
#2 New England Patriots:
The Cam Newton experience did not work. While it was a fun story to watch all season, he just simply did not fit the Patriots offense. Newton and legend Tom Brady are two totally different quarterbacks with different play styles. Stafford more closely resembles Brady than Newton does. Finishing with a 7-9 record and missing the playoffs is not acceptable in the eyes of Patriots fans, and Bill Belichick knows this. The Patriots could take a chance on a rookie in the draft as they sit at the #15 spot, but once again, they could land a trade for Stafford cheaper than they could moving up. Like Indianapolis, the Colts have a glaring need for a playmaking receiver, so they could also target Golladay in free agency as well.
#3 Washington Football Team
Like the Stafford contract, the Washington Football Team have an out clause built into Alex Smith’s contract that allows the team to release him this offseason, they bided their time in 2020 which had they cut him a year ago they would absorb over $32M in dead cap money. If they cut him now, they only absorb $10.8M. This is considerably less than what Smith is set to make the next two seasons, and at 36, a team that just won the NFC East and almost took down Tom Brady’s Buccaneers in the wild card round, the Football Team might opt to go get a younger signal caller. Stafford makes so much sense for Washington because they get a signal caller with less of a health concern than Smith poses, and his contract would payout significantly less month than Smith would cost them; allowing allocation of funds to other needs on the team.
#4 San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy Garoppolo has not been the perfect quarterback in San Francisco, nor has he been the quarterback many fans believed he would be when the team acquired the now 29-year old. He is younger than Stafford, but Stafford is clearly the better passer. Making this trade makes sense for the 49ers as Kyle Shanahan’s offense is built for the run game. What’s the best way to ensure defenses stay honest and don’t stack the box? Have a great passer. Having Stafford behind center would create more problems for opposing defenses, but dumping Garoppolo is unlikely to happen. Detroit will likely want to get younger and better at the position, and Garoppolo is due more money than Stafford over the next two seasons, so a straight up trade seems unlikely. It’s possible San Francisco offers a package, but after one down season, the 49ers don’t need to tear it all down given just how many injuries they had in 2020. They’re still Super Bowl contenders, so an overhaul seems unlikely.
#5 (Least Likely) Chicago Bears
This one does seem a bit unlikely, but think about it. The Lions could trade Stafford to Chicago to take away picks from a division rival. The Lions are not likely to be contenders over the remainder of Stafford’s contract, so he really could not have the chance to derail them. In the meantime, the Lions take picks away from their division rival that could slow Chicago’s future plans while strengthening Detroit’s. The Lions could draft a rookie QB at their current pick and then possibly use the Bears #20 pick to acquire a playmaking receiver to pair with their new franchise QB. The Bears are unlikely to land Deshaun Watson, and Ryan Pace is managing this offseason for his job. Who knows what they would give up to get a stable answer behind center. While this is severely unlikely, it is still possible.