After a dozen years at the helm of the Detroit Lions offense, former number one overall pick Matt Stafford is expected to part ways with the team this offseason as the Lions begin probing for a possible trade destination for the veteran quarterback, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The unloading of a 12-year franchise quarterback will usually come as a surprise, but not so much in this situation. With a new general manager in Brad Holmes, a new head coach in Dan Campbell, and the team’s continued mediocrity under Stafford, some might even say it was expected. The Lions are expected to be able to command a decent package for Stafford, which should include a first-round pick, league sources said.
Stafford had already approached the Lions brass before they made their new hires about a possible trade, but those discussions were postponed until Detroit made its GM and HC decisions, sources told ESPN’s Michael Rothstein.
Before either Holmes or Campbell were even hired, they were assured that trading Stafford to really give this rebuild a proper chance was definitely on the table, sources told ESPN. After a call with Holmes and Campbell late last week, the mutually beneficial decision was made with no hard feelings to start hunting for a trade for the 32-year-old signal caller, a source told Rothstein.
Campbell introduced himself to the Lions faithful last week in one of the more memorable introductory press conferences in recent memory—but whether it was good memorable or bad memorable is up for debate.
“We’re gonna kick ya in the teeth, and when you punch us back we’re gonna smile at you, and when you knock us down, we’re gonna get up,” Campbell said in his press conference. “And on the way up we’re gonna bite a kneecap off, alright, and we’re gonna stand up and it’s gonna take two more shots to knock us down. And on the way up we’re gonna take your other kneecap, and we’re gonna get up and it’s gonna take three shots to get us down, and when we do we’re gonna take another hunk out of you. Before long, we’re gonna be the last ones standing.”
It was peculiar, but there was no doubt that Campbell was showing a fire and intensity that this team sorely needs after several years of disgruntled locker rooms under Matt Patricia. The turnaround that Campbell is hoping to achieve for the Lions’ franchise will be kickstarted by whatever package Detroit can get for Stafford, who is apparently drawing a lot of interest around the league, sources told ESPN.
Though he will join a dubious list that includes Archie Manning, Kenny Anderson, and Jim Hart as the only quarterbacks to spend a decade with an NFL team without winning a playoff game, no one will ever doubt Stafford’s talent. The 2009 number one overall pick out of Georgia has amassed over 45k passing yards and 282 touchdown passes against 144 interceptions on a 62.6% completion percentage in 165 games as the leader of the Lions.
What’s really attracting other teams are his contract, which pays him just $43 million over the next two years (a bargain for a QB of Stafford’s caliber), and his late-game heroics, with which many teams in the league have become intimately aware over the years. Stafford, who grew up in Dallas, has led 38 game-winning drives and 31 fourth-quarter comebacks in his career, good for eighth and seventh all-time, respectively.
Stafford joins a growing list of elite quarterback talent that would seem to be hitting the market this offseason. The Houston Texans seem like they may have to trade DeShaun Watson, who’s arguably a top five QB in the game, even if they end up hiring Eric Bienemy as their head coach. They haven’t made the hire yet because Bienemy’s current team, the Kansas City Chiefs, will compete in the Super Bowl in two weeks’ time, where they are -175 odds favorites to win their second straight title.
Apart from Stafford and Watson, the quarterback controversy in Philly is expected to make Carson Wentz available, and possible pending free agents include Dak Prescott, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Mitchell Trubisky, Jameis Winston, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Jacoby Brissett.
The Indianapolis Colts will certainly be on the prowl for a new quarterback after watching Philip Rivers retire, and the New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Washington Football Team will likely be facing similar situations very soon as their aging signal callers contemplate hanging up their cleats as well.