Earlier this week, big news came out of Detroit as head coach, Matt Patricia, and general manager, Bob Quinn, were fired. In three seasons together, the regime totaled a 13-29-1 record, which was one of the worst stretches in franchise history. During Quinn’s tenure alone, the team recorded a 31-43-1 record. Coming into the season, it was widely known that this was a make or break season for the two, but the team failed to respond to such a monumental season.
With the direction of the franchise in limbo, the inevitable question that has seemed to come about over the past two seasons has reared its head once again.
What does the future hold for quarterback Matthew Stafford?
A player that’s become a legend in the Motor City since becoming the No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 draft, he’s a player that seemed to only be destined to wear one uniform his entire career. With the organization staring in the face of a rebuild, the next general manager of the team must ask themselves what is the best route for the team moving forward.
If the team wants to try for quick success, it would be best to keep Stafford in town and try to win your first playoff game since 1991. A city starved for playoff success, any executive who’s able to come in and possibly turn the organization around in the short term would be treated like a hero, but realistically speaking, the team has many roster questions.
Both Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents and the defensive personnel is littered with players that best suit Patricia’s dysfunctional defensive scheme. While there may be an attempt at short-term success, the possibilities of that outcome is slim.
In order to jumpstart the team's rebuild, entertaining the idea of trading Stafford could be an idea that comes about depending on how the next regime feels about the temperament of the roster overall. While there will be plenty of teams that have interest in the star quarterback, there’s one team that stands out above the rest.
The Denver Broncos.
It’s a fit that makes a lot of sense, but depends on one caveat. How does John Elway feel about Drew Lock? Since he drafted him, he may be a bit reluctant to admit that the young quarterback simply isn’t ready yet based on what we’ve seen so far this season. That would be the only potential hold up that would keep this deal from happening.
It’s widely known what the team experienced last week after being forced to call up practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton to start in his first career NFL game after all of the team's quarterbacks were deemed high risk with violating COVID-19 protocol.
Elway's last Super Bowl victory came after taking a risk on a high profile signal caller in Peyton Manning. While Stafford’s situation is a bit different in that he will have to be acquired via trade, Elway has shown that he’s not afraid to chase a player that he wants under center.
The compensation will most likely require relinquishing a first-round selection and an additional conditional pick(s), but Stafford walks into a situation that is ideal for his skill set. A Vic Fangio-led defense will always be one of the more well coached and effective throughout the league, but on the offensive side, he has weapons in Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and K.J. Hamler as well as an established running game with the tandem of Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay, who will likely be back as he’s a restricted free agent. Improvements along the offensive line will need to be made as well, but the development of Garrett Bolles under Mike Munchak is certainly promising. With a strong offensive line class, Elway can also find players with the remaining picks that the organization possesses.
Being that the team is in the AFC West with the high flying Kansas City Chiefs, improved Las Vegas Raiders, and the Los Angeles Chargers, who seemed to have found their franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert, the Broncos will need to make a move that helps them stay in contention over the long haul.
The potential trade of Stafford is an interesting phenomena as he turns 33 years old at the beginning of next season, but holds a $24.8 million dead cap hit. If the Lions want to part ways with him, it becomes significantly easier in 2022, as he only carries a $9.9 million dead cap hit. Regardless, things will be interesting to monitor in Detroit as the team makes its next regime hire and what they elect to do with the long-time franchise stalwart who means so much to the organization and city as a whole.