There’s almost no chance the Detroit Lions trade Matthew Stafford to the Chicago Bears. But a deal elsewhere could be the 1st QB domino to fall that makes a viable option available.

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Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune
·4 min read
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As division rivals, the Chicago Bears know full well how much of an upgrade Matthew Stafford would be at quarterback — and they probably figure the Detroit Lions are unlikely to consider trading him to a team in the NFC North.

After all, the Lions have been dealing with the curse of Bobby Layne for more than 50 years, so why help an opponent they face twice annually solve its own QB woes?

While the Bears infamously traded Layne to the New York Bulldogs in 1949, the Lions later dealt him to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1958 — a year after Detroit won the NFL championship — and legend has it Layne, angered by the move, said the Lions wouldn’t win a championship for another 50 years. At least Layne didn’t hex the Bears on his way out of town, right?

But the news Saturday that the Lions and Stafford have come to an agreement he would be better off elsewhere — the first sign of movement in what will be a fascinating offseason of musical quarterbacks — could be an early domino to fall that positions the Bears to land their next quarterback.

The list of teams in the market for a quarterback this offseason is long, and you never know when a team that appears well-situated will take action, like the Green Bay Packers did last year when they traded up to draft Jordan Love in the first round with Aaron Rodgers still playing at an MVP level.

It would be surprising if the Lions even considered dealing Stafford to the Bears, but general manager Ryan Pace shouldn’t assume that without making a call. If the Bears put together an offer that is clearly superior to any other the Lions receive, maybe a deal could be made. But there likely will be considerable interest elsewhere that would make the idea of dealing Stafford in the division a non-starter for new Lions GM Brad Holmes.

The Lions drafted Stafford with the No. 1 pick back in 2009, about three weeks after the Bears forked over a bounty of draft picks and Kyle Orton to acquire Jay Cutler. Here the Bears are again, after their own highly drafted quarterback Mitch Trubisky hasn’t panned out, trying to figure out what to do while Pace and coach Matt Nagy are under pressure for the season ahead.

While Stafford hasn’t won a playoff game in his career, he has made 16 starts in nine of the last 10 seasons and his career marks over 12 seasons of 45,109 passing yards, 282 touchdowns and 3,898 completions would nearly double the Bears’ all-time records. With $43 million and two years remaining on his contract, he’s a relative bargain for the position — and that should position the Lions to get at least a first-round draft pick in return, maybe more.

This situation will generate a ton of buzz in the days and weeks ahead. But no trade can be processed until March 17, the first day of the new league year. All eyes are still on the Houston Texans and the situation with disgruntled quarterback Deshaun Watson, who some believe will eventually demand a trade.

Compensation for Watson would surely dwarf whatever the Lions can get in return for Stafford. One rumor going around the league last week was the Texans would ask for at least two first-round picks and a franchise-type player in return for Watson. Before you suggest the Bears could flip two first-round picks and outside linebacker Khalil Mack to Houston for Watson, why would the Texans want Mack, a guy making a ton of money for a team that has salary-cap issues? The Texans have been spiraling with their own edge rusher J.J. Watt.

The Bears are just one of many teams with a ton of questions at quarterback.

There will be speculation about the potential availability of Carson Wentz in Philadelphia. Drew Brees could retire in New Orleans, and the future of Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh is unknown. The Indianapolis Colts need to replace Philip Rivers, who retired.

And then there is a list of teams with uncertain QB situations, including the Carolina Panthers, New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers and Washington Football Team. Other teams could be lurking, too, for talents such as Stafford and certainly Watson.

Perhaps the greatest hope for the Bears as it pertains to Stafford is that he lands with a team that then cuts loose a quarterback who would be of potential interest. If the 49ers look to reboot their offense with Stafford, that would make Jimmy Garoppolo available. Garoppolo missed 10 games last season and is due $24.1 million in 2021 and $24.2 million in 2022.

Garoppolo might not be a long-term cure for the Bears, but he could represent a short-term fix as they scramble to remain competitive in a league driven by offense. The four teams still in play on conference championship Sunday reinforced that point. The Packers finished first in the league in scoring with the Buffalo Bills second, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers third and the Kansas City Chiefs sixth.