DETROIT – On Saturday, Adam Schefter reported that the Detroit Lions and long-time starting quarterback Matthew Stafford are expected to part ways in the offseason. While many Lions fans are troubled by the news that there will be a changing of the guard under center, the now 32-year-old Stafford should have plenty of suitors that can offer some level of trade value as the Lions build to the future.
Stafford in Detroit
Stafford was the No.1 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, joining the Lions following an 0-16 season, one of the worst in Detroit sports history. The Texas native threw for nearly 8,000 yards during his career at Georgia, and the Lions identified him as their choice at No.1 after a junior year highlighted by 3,459 passing yards and 25 touchdowns. That Bulldogs team went 10-3 under then-head coach Mark Richt.
With the lack of success in Detroit over the last 12 seasons, it is easy to wonder what-if when it comes to that 2009 NFL Draft for the Lions, I’m here to tell you they made the right choice. Looking back at that draft class, Stafford and offensive tackle Andre Smith are the only remaining Top-10 picks on an active roster in 2020. The second and third quarterbacks taken in the draft were Mark Sanchez (USC, Butt Fumble) and Josh Freeman (Kansas State). To say the Lions should have done differently is foolish.
Now to the stats and records.
2011 was the “breakout year” for Stafford, as the Motor City’s gunslinger became just the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 5,000 yards in a season. Stafford was named a Pro Bowl Alternate in that season, leading the Lions to a playoff berth just three seasons after that infamous 0-16 season.
At just 147 games into his NFL career, Stafford became the first quarterback to throw for 40,000 passing yards in a career. To put that number into perspective, Stafford is one of just six active quarterbacks to find themselves in the Top-20 of passing yards all-time.
2016 was also a special year for Detroit Lions fans and this Matthew Stafford led offense. The 2016 Lions reached the playoffs on the back of an NFL record eight fourth-quarter comebacks, as well as eight game-winning drives by Matthew Stafford. While he did not get the elusive playoff win that this Lions franchise has been chasing for far too long, Stafford’s legendary fourth quarters provided plenty to get excited about for a group of die-hard fans in the Ann V. Nicholson apartments at Oakland University, I can tell you that much.
The final four seasons of Stafford’s Lions tenure have been less exciting, highlighted by a near-miss of the playoffs at 9-7 and some really low moments with head coach Matt Patricia. Nearing the end here, it is a shame Stafford’s Lion career has to end this way. You can’t help but feel like Stafford joins the likes of Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson, players with hall-of-fame talent that was partially wasted in the Honolulu Blue. Knowing that the next stop in the journey will be Stafford dawning the colors of another NFL franchise, it seems fitting to move-on from mine and many fans’ love affair with No.9 and look toward the future.
Potential Trade Destinations
The Colts are in need of their next quarterback after Phillip Rivers announced his retirement from the league this past week. The Colts have a good offensive line, an outstanding young back in Jonathan Taylor, and a championship defense that can give Stafford a chance to win games with some consistency.
Now it goes without saying, but I think there is some serious draft capital that would need to be thrown in wherever this trade goes. The Colts are in position to pick at the back half of the first round this year and would certainly not be holding onto an outrageously high pick in 2022 after adding Stafford to the team.
Here is my proposal for Stafford:
2022 5th Round Pick
2021 1st Round Pick (No. 21 overall)
2021 3rd Round Pick
2022 1st Round Pick
2022 4th Round Pick
I am going to focus these scenarios on what the Lions would end up with, and this haul from the Colts is certainly something Lions fans could get excited about. With the potential for Justin Fields falling to No.7, I think the Lions scooping up a QB, preferably Fields, makes sense with that first pick.
Now holding the No.21 pick, I would like to see the Lions try and get Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye. This exact scenario currently plays out in Daniel Jeremiah’s first NFL Mock Draft of the season, and I really like it. Michigan defenders have had a ton of recent success in the league, and I think Kwity Paye provides a pass rush that was lacking in Detroit in 2020.
WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM
The Football Team’s defense made a huge step forward in 2020, highlighted by an outstanding rookie season from No.2 Draft Pick in 2020, Chase Young. Washington has some exciting young pieces on offense in Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin, but the quarterback position certainly provides some question marks heading into the offseason.
Washington’s draft capital is a little more appealing, so I think the Lions win here with just the next two years of first-round picks from Washington. Let’s take a look at the proposed trade below:
2022 5th Round Pick
2021 1st Round Pick (No. 19)
2022 1st Round Pick
2022 3rd Round Pick
Again, this scenario for me involves the Lions taking their future franchise quarterback with that No.7 pick in this year’s draft, and the No.19 pick provides some similar options when it comes to bolstering this team. Again, I have the Lions taking someone from just down the road with this second first-round pick, this time in Wolverine offensive tackle Jalen Mayfield.
The Detroit Lions did not do a great job of protecting Matthew Stafford at times during his time with the franchise, so adding an offensive lineman to go with a new franchise quarterback seems like the right move here. Mayfield provides some experience blocking in the run game for a Lions team that will need to get more production in D’Andre Swift’s second season.
Now I know the Dolphins are not exactly the wildly popular destination that is being talked about for Stafford, but I think I have come up with a trade that makes some sense for both franchises as they work toward their respective goals. The Dolphins were a near miss from the playoffs in 2020, and I think an experienced Matthew Stafford could be exactly what they need.
2021 1st Round Pick (No. 7)
2021 1st Round Pick (No. 3)
2021 1st Round Pick (No. 18)
So here we go, I think the Dolphins jump at the opportunity to get Matthew Stafford, and I think they grab a standout wide receiver or offensive lineman at No. 7. Where it gets really exciting is for the Lions. The Lions now have a quarterback that a section of the fanbase wanted in the 2020 NFL Draft, and maybe a change of scenery with new Offensive Coordinator Anthony Lynn will allow Tua to flourish. Where it gets really fun is looking at what the Lions could do with those other two first round picks.
Selfishly, I would love to see the Lions grab Heisman-winning wideout Devonta Smith with that pick at No.3, immediately giving Tua a familiar weapon to find in the Detroit offense. The addition of Smith creates a loaded wide receiver room to go along with Hockenson (TE) and Swift who are both still on rookie contracts as well.
With pick No. 18, I think we are back to the Lions drafting Kwity Paye from Michigan. The offense can only do so much, and the addition of Paye would show fans that new-GM Brad Holmes is serious about bolstering a defense that was statistically one of the worst in the NFL.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
So here is where I’m at. The Colts scenario feels the most likely heading into the offseason, while the Dolphins scenario seems the most outrageous and at the same time most exciting. Regardless, the Lions faithful will miss seeing No. 9 dawn the Honolulu Blue, as the face of the franchise has provided this group with plenty of smiles and memories over the first 12 years of his career. Whoever gets him, treat him well.