Another productive NFL quarterback is on the trade market, expanding the deep pool of available passers this offseason.
Matthew Stafford is reportedly done with the Lions and has requested a move elsewhere, according to multiple reports. He has spent his entire 12-year career in Detroit, but wants the opportunity to return to the playoffs before retirement.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft joins Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz and Tua Tagovailoa as passers potentially set to leave their teams via trade — not to mention the likes of Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton, who hit the open market in free agency. After a healthy 2020 season produced more than 4,000 passing yards and 26 touchdown passes to 10 interceptions, Stafford will be one of the most sought-after options of that group, perhaps behind only Watson in stature.
Several AFC teams seem to be good matches for Stafford, including the Colts, Patriots and Steelers. The 32-year-old — he turns 33 in February — is better suited for a roster able to compete immediately than one needing to execute a multi-year rebuilding plan. ESPN reported Saturday that the Lions would likely receive at least a first-round pick for him.
League source says Matthew Stafford approached the Lions after the season, suggested a trade may be in the interests of both parties, and the Lions agreed this week to explore that option.
— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) January 23, 2021
2/2 Holmes and Campbell both knew of Stafford’s interest in exploring a trade for both sides before they were hired. Lions aren’t believed to have begun seeking offers yet but the process is moving forward.
— Dan Miller (@DanMillerFox2) January 23, 2021
Stafford is owed $43 million through next season — part of a contract amount that was considered onerous when he first signed, but is now viewed as team-friendly, given escalating payments for quarterbacks around the league and his continuously solid performance.
Below is an overview of where Stafford might be headed once the offseason begins:
Possible trade destinations for Matthew Stafford
With Philip Rivers retiring, Indianapolis has reason to dip into its cap space for Stafford, who would provide the same steady hand Rivers did during an 11-5 season. The Colts boast one of the most well-rounded rosters in the NFL; with the Texans and Jaguars nowhere near contention, they have only the Titans to contend with in the AFC South.
As Stafford ages, having a capable running game to keep defenses from honing in on his arm would be helpful. Rookie sensation Jonathan Taylor, then, would be a crucial ally in his success. Stafford also had to play from behind in Detroit much of the time, an occurrence that would probably be less frequent in Indianapolis.
The Colts aren’t exactly loaded with wide receivers — Michael Pittman Jr. is the only one with obvious upside — but they have enough going on outside for Stafford to feel supported.
Just because the Cam Newton era was a dud doesn’t mean New England plans to accept a losing record and high draft pick next year. Eight Patriots players opted out of this past campaign because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but their defense still ranked seventh in points allowed. With the expected returns of Patrick Chung and Dont’a Hightower to that group, a return to contention isn’t impossible.
Stafford would give the Patriots an exponential offensive lift, though the franchise needs to find more effective receivers than the Jacobi Myers-led corps that floundered in 2020.
Stafford would be an exciting replacement for Ben Roethlisberger if the latter retires this offseason. Even if JuJu Smith-Schuster leaves Pittsburgh in free agency, the Steelers’ pass catchers should be among the NFL’s best. It has been a long time since Stafford had a duo with the potential of Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool.
A lack of cap room makes a Stafford trade to Pittsburgh extremely difficult — Roethlisberger alone has a dead cap of $22.25 million and the franchise is projected to be well above its allotted 2021 space — but the potential reward for the franchise, if the money can be worked out, would be immense.
Other landing spots
The 49ers, Dolphins, Panthers, Washington Football Team and Broncos are among the teams that have also been discussed in Stafford trade rumors.