After a long and eventful run, Matthew Stafford’s time in Detroit appears to be coming to an end.
With a new head coach in place, it’s time for the Lions and Stafford to move on from one another. Of course, this may not be an ideal time to trade Stafford with so many of the teams in need of a quarterback fixated on Deshaun Watson. However, Stafford doesn’t come with the same long-term commitment as Watson and he clearly still has some good years left in the tank. Plus, only one team is going to end up with Watson, leaving plenty of quarterback-hungry teams left to make a deal with Detroit.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at each team’s chances of trading for Stafford this offseason.
Indianapolis Colts: 25%
Many people believe the Colts appear have emerged as the favorites for Stafford. They just gave the aging Philip Rivers a one-year deal for the 2020 season, which indicated that they thought they have a roster that can compete with the right quarterback. Indy made the playoffs with Rivers, and so they will likely try to acquire another veteran quarterback rather than draft a quarterback in the first round and start to rebuild.
Likewise, there are rumblings that Stafford likes what the Colts bring to the table. For starters, they have one of the better offensive lines in the NFL. The Indy rushing attack also started to come around late in the season behind rookie Jonathan Taylor. With T.Y. Hilton starting to show his age, Indy’s receiving corps isn’t the most dynamic in the NFL. However, Michael Pittman showed plenty of promise as a rookie.
The Colts also have a nice contingent of tight ends on the roster. Clearly, there are reasons for there to be mutual interest between Stafford and the Colts, so this could be a good fit.
San Francisco 49ers: 20%
The Niners have been supportive yet non-committal when it comes to Jimmy Garoppolo being the quarterback of the future. It looks like the 49ers might be one of the more aggressive teams when it comes to trading for Watson. That could make Stafford a backup option if they can’t work out a trade with Houston.
The question is whether Stafford is enough of an upgrade over Garoppolo to make a trade worthwhile. The Niners would have to give up draft capital — possibly a first-rounder and more — and potentially give Stafford a new contract. That's a lot to give up for what could be a marginal upgrade.
Despite being the betting favorites, the 49ers just don't seem to have the same desperation as other teams which drops them down our list.
Denver Broncos: 15%
The Broncos are an interesting wild card in the offseason’s quarterback shuffle. On the one hand, Drew Lock has shown some promise, although perhaps not enough for Denver to pass up on the chance to go after Watson or Stafford.
The Broncos have a nice collection of young receivers like Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant, Tim Patrick and K.J. Hamler. Bringing in a veteran quarterback could be just what the Broncos need to get the best out of all of that talent.
John Elway is no longer calling the shots in Denver, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a useful recruiter. Not long ago, he convinced Peyton Manning to come to Denver and that ended up working out for both parties.
It’d be a little surprising to see the Broncos not make an effort to trade for Watson or Stafford. Assuming they do, there’s a lot about the organization that makes it an intriguing destination.
Washington Football Team: 15%
Unless Washington is committed to giving Alex Smith at least one more year while they look for a young quarterback, Stafford could be an option for Ron Rivera’s team. Making the playoffs likely takes Washington out of position to draft one of the top quarterbacks available in this year’s draft, leaving them without many good options outside of Smith.
On paper, Washington is a surprisingly good fit for Stafford. After all, they made the playoffs this past season, albeit in a historically dreadful NFC East. The Washington defense is in good shape, which means Stafford wouldn’t have to carry the team on his shoulders. Offensively, Washington needs a few more pieces, although Terry McLaurin is a nice place to start.
Looking two or three years down the line, Stafford in Washington could work out.
New England Patriots: 10%
Obviously, Cam Newton’s one year in New England didn’t work out, so the Patriots are back to square one. Bill Belichick probably doesn’t want to start from scratch with a rookie, as he’ll be eager to show that 2020 was just an aberration and not the end of the New England dynasty. His best bet to make that happen would be acquiring either Watson or Stafford.
Stafford has an interesting connection to the Patriots because Matt Patricia is going right back to New England after his brief stint as head coach of the Lions. We're guessing Stafford would like to avoid Patricia at all costs if he can, which is why the Pats aren't higher on the list.
On the other hand, all of the winning Belichick has done could make Stafford want to take a shot on the Patriots.
New York Jets: 5%
It’s anybody’s guess what the Jets are going to do this offseason. Clearly, they would love to use some of their extra draft picks to trade for Watson. But that doesn’t mean they would be equally eager to trade for Stafford. Given Stafford’s age and salary, is it worthwhile to trade him rather than giving Sam Darnold another chance?
That being said, the Jets are dealing with a disappointed fanbase that endured a disastrous season. They may need to make a big move and bring in an experienced quarterback to breathe some life into the franchise and give the fanbase a reason to be optimistic. That alone should keep them in the Stafford sweepstakes.
The Field: 10%
At this point, it’s far too early to know how the quarterback carousel this offseason will turn out. As far as Stafford is concerned, nearly half of the teams in the NFL could potentially have some level of interest in him. A lot will depend on if Watson is traded and whether or not Carson Wentz is put on the trade block too.
In addition to the teams mentioned above, the Panthers, Saints, Steelers, Texans, Bears, Rams, Falcons, and Cowboys could all have quarterback situations in a state of flux. While Watson is going to get most of the attention right now, Stafford figures to be a desirable target for a lot of teams that feel like they’re a quarterback away from being a contender. That will make him a valuable commodity who could end up just about anywhere.
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