The longtime Lions starting quarterback has informed the team that he would like to make a fresh start, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. The team reportedly agreed to discuss trade options in the coming weeks.
A trade would end a 12-year tenure for Stafford with the Lions, who took him first overall in the 2009 draft. He currently stands as the team’s all-time leader in passing yards (45,109) and touchdowns (282), and could be an attractive option for teams at the age of 32.
Stafford approached the Lions after the season and suggested a trade would be best for all parties, the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett reported Saturday.
What is Matthew Stafford’s trade market?
Stafford is currently signed through 2022, with base salaries of $9.5 million in 2021 and $12.5 million in 2022, according to ESPN's Field Yates. He is also due $10 million roster bonuses and $500K workout bonuses for each season, giving him salary-cap hits of $20 million in 2021 and $23 million in 2022.
As far as quality quarterbacks go, those numbers are quite affordable. Pelissero notes that any trade would likely have to happen before the fifth day of the 2021 league year in March, when Stafford’s first roster bonus kicks in. A trade would reportedly give the Lions $19 million in dead cap, but save the team $14 million in cap space overall, plus $20 million in cash.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Lions are expected to receive at least a first-round draft pick in a potential trade.
Of course, there is no shortage of QB-needy teams in the NFL, even among contenders. The Indianapolis Colts just lost Philip Rivers, the Pittsburgh Steelers could have the same need if Ben Roethlisberger retires, the New England Patriots underperformed significantly with Cam Newton and the San Francisco 49ers have seen plenty of speculation about an overhaul under center.
New era for Lions
A Stafford departure makes it clear that we are entering a new era of Lions history.
The team has already hired a new head coach in former New Orleans Saints assistant Dan Campbell and a new general manager in Brad Holmes, formerly of the Los Angeles Rams. Both men were reportedly aware that they would be looking for a new QB when they took their jobs. It was also reported Saturday that the team was hiring former Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn as their next offensive coordinator.
Stafford reportedly told the Lions that he felt the time was right to move on, and team officials agreed.
Whatever return the team can get for Stafford, the team already has the No. 7 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, and there are plenty of potential franchise quarterbacks up for grabs. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is universally expected to be picked first overall, but passers like Ohio State’s Justin Fields, BYU’s Zach Wilson and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance could still be around when the Lions are on the clock, especially if they trade up.
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