How trading Matthew Stafford impacts the salary cap for the Lions and the team acquiring him

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Erik Schlitt
·3 min read
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With a roster retooling on the horizon, Matthew Stafford has requested to be traded and the Detroit Lions have agreed. Baring a lack of reasonable trade offers, this situation lacks few obstacles.

Teams have already begun reaching out to the Lions about acquiring Stafford and as many as 10-12 teams are already made contact. Oddsmakers are currently projecting the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos as the favorites to land him.

At $33 million, Stafford carries the seventh highest cap hit among quarterbacks into the 2021 offseason, but that contract will be divided between the Lions and the acquiring team, setting up reasonable results for all sides.

Per Overthecap.com, Stafford’s remaining contract looks like this:

Year

Base salary

Prorated signing bonus

Roster bonus

Workout bonus

Cap number

2021

$9,500,000

$13,000,000

$10,000,000

$500,000

$33,000,000

2022

$12,500,000

$3,000,000

$10,000,000

$500,000

$26,000,000

2023*

$0

$3,000,000

$0

$0

$3,000,000

*Of note: 2023 is a voided year that only applies to the Lions and would not impact the new team.

Impact on the Lions

Stafford’s $10 million roster bonus comes due mid-March, so as long as a trade is made before then, the only money the Lions would be responsible for is the prorated signing bonus money (bolded on the above chart).

In a trade situation, the Lions are responsible for all $19 million in 2021 and that will be applied to their current salary cap.

Year

Base salary

Prorated signing bonus

Roster bonus

Workout bonus

Cap number

2021

$0

$19,000,000

$0

$0

$19,000,000

With the salary cap floor starting at $175 million, and the Lions rolling over $12.8 million from last season, they currently have roughly $4.4 million in available space.

Although, the Lions were set to pay Stafford $33 million this season. When you remove that from their salary cap total, then apply his cap hit of $19 million, they will free up $14 million in new cap space.

That means the Lions cap will increase from $4.4 million to $18.4 million once Stafford is traded — which would put the Lions in the top-10 in salary cap space as things currently stand.

It’s worth noting that the league salary cap has yet to be determined for the 2021 season, but if it rises as expected, so will the Lions’ available capital.

Impact on acquiring team

With the $19 million in signing bonus money left on the Lions salary cap, the acquiring team will see a nice reduction in Stafford’s salary over the remaining two years of his contract.

Year

Base salary

Prorated signing bonus

Roster bonus

Workout bonus

Cap number

2021

$9,500,000

$0

$10,000,000

$500,000

$20,000,000

2022

$12,500,000

$0

$10,000,000

$500,000

$23,000,000

That’s an incredibly reasonable deal for Stafford and would slot him in with just the 16th highest cap hit among quarterback in 2021, as things stand today.

While teams will try and leverage Stafford’s age, injury history, and desire to leave against the Lions, his team-friendly salary cap number is a very helpful bargaining chip for Detroit.