ALLEN PARK, me. – Towards the end of last season, Ford Field had a large white mural of Matthew Stafford with his back turned with his left arm raised – the index finger pointed in the air.
It was an impressive picture then, which was allowed in the stadium all season with few fans, but you had to wonder if this picture would exist in 2021. Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia were gone. It was clear that a new regime was coming, and after years of saying he wanted to be the Detroit Lions quarterback, Stafford gave less specific answers as last season came to an end.
We all now know why: Stafford has asked for action which he believes will be mutually beneficial. And while a source familiar with the situation said Detroit wants “fair market value,” it’s hard to believe the Lions won’t get it for a soon-to-be-33-year-old quarterback with a largely amicable contract for the next two seasons.
Barring something completely unexpected, Stafford has ended the Detroit portion of his career. When the Lions start hiring applicants for their temporary leader, it will be time for the franchise to see what it might get back and who could be the focus for the Lions when they start playing in 2021.
The teams / compensation
Not every team will ask about Stafford. Many are quarterback set or in too similar a situation to be viable: Buffalo, Baltimore, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Kansas City, the Los Angeles Chargers, Green Bay, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Seattle and Arizona.
That leaves half the league that could either reach Detroit or call the Lions. This should provide Detroit with an advantageous position to gain leverage with a combination of much-needed capital draft and maybe even a player or two in exchange for Stafford.
Detroit needs the picks. New General Manager Brad Holmes wants to work through the draft and currently has only five draft tips for 2021. With lots of defensive gaps (basically any position) and now questions about offense at quarterback, running back, receiving and in some ways Measures in the offensive line, the more chances to attract young talent, the better.
In return for Stafford, Lions should receive at least one first-round selection, unless they can negotiate Stafford and their own selection at Deshaun Watson, Houston and may push for multiple top classics or a multi-choice package over several years .
How that would look would depend on where Stafford is going. For example, teams with major cap issues (New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and Las Vegas) could try packing players with picks to alleviate their own cap issues. And don’t discount the raiders. Vegas coach Jon Gruden has often been impressed with Stafford, and neither Derek Carr nor Marcus Mariota’s contracts are too onerous. Or maybe the Lions are taking one of them back – both are 30 years old or younger and have league starting experience. It’s a wildcard suggestion, but you’d have to think Holmes will look everywhere for the best deal.
There are also the more likely options: Indianapolis, Washington, New England, San Francisco, Carolina, Denver, and Dallas. The cowboys are fascinating because of the uncertainty surrounding Dak Prescott, and sending Stafford back to his hometown always seemed like a possible pairing. And until Dallas actually signs Prescott, it’s worth checking with Detroit or calling Jerry Jones.
Lions can go in many different directions here. Detroit could introduce a seasoned quarterback as a bridge to the future, giving the Lions flexibility between this year and next to find a long-term solution.
Or they can take on a younger quarterback who has struggled elsewhere to see if a change of scene can ignite that player, much like Ryan Tannehill’s move from Miami to Tennessee.
And then there’s the draft in which the Lions have at least number 7 overall and the potential for at least one quarterback to fall on them. Let’s look at all three options.
The bridge: There are many options to consider and when Anthony Lynn takes the offensive, Tyrod Taylor is the starting point.
Taylor was Lynn’s starting quarterback during his year-long stint as offensive coordinator in Buffalo, and spent the last two seasons with the Chargers, where Lynn was the head coach. He will know Lynn’s system better than any other quarterback in the league and has experience throwing 9,770 yards, 54 touchdowns and 20 interceptions between his time in Baltimore, Buffalo, Cleveland and Los Angeles.
Lynn had Taylor as a bridge – if short-lived – last season before Justin Herbert took office. So this step makes sense.
Chase Daniel is already on the Lions list in 2021, has guaranteed $ 1.5 million for the next season and a manageable cap hit of $ 5.3 million. The new Lions head coach Dan Campbell also knows Daniel from his 2017 season together in New Orleans. So it’s a possibility that he will stay.
Cam Newton, Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton, and Robert Griffin III are also possible options in this scenario. Jimmy Garoppolo, if the 49ers were traded for Stafford, could either fit here or the next category, but Detroit may not want to take his contract in a deal.
Each of these quarterbacks also likely means drawing the long-term man in either 2021 or 2022.
The recultivation project: It could get more interesting here, between potential trades and free agents.
Much like Taylor, Jameis Winston could be a fascinating option. While he probably seems like a way to re-sign in New Orleans, perhaps Campbell thought highly enough of him that he would work with the Saints to take him to Detroit last season to try to reclaim his career.
Winston has the talent. He completed more than 60% of his passes every year with the exception of his rookie season and had a season of 5,109 yards in 2019 – during which he threw 33 touchdowns. He also threw 30 stunning interceptions and his discipline and decision-making should improve significantly.
Jacoby Brissett showed potential in the two seasons he was a starter in Indianapolis, and in both seasons he was unexpectedly pushed into the starting role. Give him an off-season where he knows he’s the starter and maybe something is there.
The Lions know Mitchell Trubisky, who seemed to have played well against Detroit for parts of his career. Despite all his mistakes, he still completed 67% of his passes last season, throwing 16 touchdowns and just eight interceptions, and getting the Bears into the playoffs. In a way, the criticism of Trubisky seems to be a victim of where he was drafted, as well as what he did in the field.
Sam Darnold could end up with the jets in second place. Like Trubisky and Winston, talent showed up in a flash, and a change of scene could save a career. Darnold completed only 59.8% of his passes with 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions in New York, but also played with poor Jets teams in all three seasons.
The newbies: Push this out of the way. If Jacksonville doesn’t do anything totally unexpected Trevor Lawrence is not an option.
Lions may need to move up from 7th place to grab the BYUs Zach Wilson or Ohio State Justin Fieldswho are considered the next two best quarterbacks in the class. The capital from the Stafford deal could give Detroit enough to do so.
North Dakota State Trey Lance – The puzzle in this year’s class because he only played one game in 2020 – is a fascinating option. He never lost 17-0 in college and only made one intercept in 307 attempts. He’s a good size at 6-foot-3,221 pounds and won’t turn 21 until after the draft. In his only full season for the bison, he completed 66.9% of his passes for 2,786 yards, 28 touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns.