There are plenty of HUGE decisions that will have to be made in Allen Park during the coming offseason, including hiring a new general manager and head coach after the Detroit Lions decided to move on from Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn.
But another decision that will have to be made is whether or not to continue on with Matthew Stafford or if it is time to cut ties and attempt to trade him.
In a piece published in The Athletic, Mike Sando suggests six teams as potential trade partners for the Lions if they do decide it is time to move on from Stafford.
San Francisco 49ers
Coach Kyle Shanahan helped Ryan become the league MVP and reach a Super Bowl. He just knocked the Los Angeles Rams out of first place in the NFC West with Nick Mullens subbing for Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback. Think Shanahan could win big with Stafford? His Falcons offenses were more pass-oriented than his 49ers offenses have become for a simple reason. Shanahan had greater faith in throwing the ball with Ryan than he has with the quarterbacks in San Francisco. Stafford would open the playbook.
“They would win a Super Bowl,” an offensive coach said. “Stafford would be in a real organization finally. He would bend to Shanahan and that offense because there is such a history of success with that system. And Stafford would know he’s not going to get hit in the head all the time like in Detroit.”
New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees, despite tossing 40 touchdown passes with four interceptions in his past 16 starts, is winding down physically and might not project as a full-season starter if he decides to keep playing. Sean Payton loves Taysom Hill, but does he really want to risk being stuck with a one-dimensional offense for the long-term if Hill does not develop? Jameis Winston is also on the roster, but his off-the-charts interception rate in Tampa was no aberration. Winston threw far too many picks in college as well. Stafford is the more appealing alternative if the Saints can keep open their championship window the next couple of seasons.
“Sean would do it if he needed to and they would roll and Stafford would go there first over any other place if the choice was his,” another offensive coach said. “They have talent, they know how to pass protect, they got running backs and the defense is really good.”
New England Patriots
After three-plus seasons under Patricia in Detroit, living by the Patriot Way in New England might not rank high on Stafford’s wish list, especially without sufficient weaponry on the roster to support a quarterback. But Stafford could win in New England. Josh McDaniels could still be there to run the offense. Key players could return from COVID-19 opt-outs. Bill Belichick will have time (and salary-cap resources) to restore the roster this coming offseason. Stafford, like current Patriots quarterback Cam Newton, comes with some injury concerns at this stage. Unlike Newton, Stafford does not need rushing contributions to be effective.
“I think Stafford has lacked some accuracy this year and while some of that is protection and receiving corps, what kind of dynamic receiving corps do they have in New England?” an exec said.
Philip Rivers turns 39 on Dec. 8. How the rest of this season plays out could determine whether Rivers wants to keep playing and whether the Colts want him back.
“I think Frank (Reich) is too loyal to Rivers and would not do that with Stafford,” an evaluator said.
The Colts’ roster is ready to win now. Some of the concerns surrounding Rivers’ propensity for taking risks could apply to Stafford as well, but if Indy needs a quarterback ready to win from Day One, Stafford could qualify more than a developmental prospect would.
“They are doing it with Rivers and in their minds, they have to be thinking they are gearing up to who they are drafting next so they can have a real succession plan,” a veteran coach said. “It’s not out of the realm, but to go back-to-back with veterans, I don’t know. They need a long-term fit for the coach.”
This one might seem odd on the surface with Cleveland 8-3 and Baker Mayfield in only his third NFL season, but I’m not sure Mayfield has the talent to elevate the Browns. Stafford could. Coach Kevin Stefanski would know the Lions’ QB well from his own days in the NFC North. The Browns have the offensive line and run game that Stafford hasn’t had in Detroit and that he could use as he transitions into the latter part of his career.
An exec wondered whether Cleveland would invest the draft capital and salary in Stafford without having an obvious connection to him, but we should also remember that the Browns’ current leadership has relatively little invested in Mayfield, who was inherited from the previous regime. And there could be one Stafford connection through Darrell Bevell, the Lions’ interim coach. Stefanski worked with Bevell in Minnesota for five seasons.
The organization has its own issues. Ownership is in flux. GM John Elway cycles through coaches. There is some young talent on offense, however, and the team ranks among the top 10 in combined EPA on defense and special teams. Stafford would give the Broncos at least a chance at keeping pace in an AFC West packed with talented quarterbacks. The odds are against Drew Lock playing as well as Stafford has played, let alone as well as Patrick Mahomes or even Justin Herbert and Derek Carr have played.
“Elway might not do that because his name is on the young guy,” a coach said.
Nation, if the Lions do decide to move on from Stafford, where would you like to see him traded to?