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NFL Draft

What’s Next For The Lions Post Matthew Stafford?

  • The Draft Network
  • January 27, 2021
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As if it wasn’t enough that Dak Prescott might not be returning to the Dallas Cowboys or that Deshaun Watson might be on the move as well, we now have yet another veteran quarterback who looks like he’ll be playing in a different jersey at the start of next season, as it has been reported that the Detroit Lions and Matthew Stafford have mutually agreed to part ways.

I always wonder how mutual these mutual decisions really are, but for now, the split between the two sides seems civil; and for that, we should see a decent return for the Lions as they turn the page on their once franchise quarterback and move into a new regime.

For the Lions, this means saying goodbye to the greatest passer their franchise has ever seen. Since 1930 when Detroit first kicked off, no quarterback in team history has passed for more yards, touchdowns, yards-per-game, and had a higher career quarterback rating than Stafford. In fact, Stafford owns all of the Lions’ passing records by a mile—no player is even close to him for passing yards (45,109) and touchdowns (284).

Stafford was the Lions’ No. 1-overall pick in 2009, and though he has given the Lions plenty to build around, for the most part, they failed to do so. From 2009 to 2015, the Lions had both Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson on the same team. Yet the Lions only won double-digit games twice in that time, reaching the playoffs twice with no division titles and not a single playoff victory. For most of Stafford’s career in Detroit, the franchise failed to build a winner around him, and unfortunately, that’s how it will end.

So, what now? Well, I believe there are a few different ways the Lions could go about acquiring a new quarterback, but there are steps in that process that need to be laid out.

Make Sure You’re Getting A First-Round Pick For Matthew Stafford

I was firmly in the camp that unless Stafford wants out, you don’t move on from him. He’s just a year and a half removed from what was almost an MVP-caliber season, in 2019, before it was cut short due to injury. He’s only 32 years old, and over the final two years of his contract coming up (technically three, but the third year is a void year) he has a friendly cap hit. With so many teams needing a starting-caliber quarterback right away, getting a first-round pick for him in return should be on the table.

The Washington Football team, Indianapolis Colts, and Chicago Bears are three teams that desperately need a starting quarterback who can compete right away; and each are picking in the latter half of the draft to where this would be a no-brainer. Of course, the Bears being in the same division as the Lions means there’s no way they’d deal him to Chicago. But then look at a team like the Denver Broncos, who pick at No. 9, or the San Francisco 49ers, who might be interested as well, at No. 12.

The bottom line is don’t give Stafford away for less than you should. Keep the phone lines open; and even though it’s already a done deal that he won’t be returning, Detroit can still have leverage by using other teams as bait to drive up the price. Stafford is worth a first-round pick, and the Lions need to make sure whoever they trade him to believes that.

Don’t Move That New First-Round Pick, If You Don’t Have To

Detroit may end up having to trade the new first-round pick it gets, along with the one it has now, in order to get the quarterback it wants in this draft. But there’s a chance Detroit doesn’t have to.

All I’m saying here is the Lions need to be thorough. This roster is not very good. It needs a lot of work, especially since Stafford will not only be leaving, but wide receiver Kenny Golladay is likely gone as well. The defense is also changing from a Matt Patricia unit that wasn’t very scheme versatile with the players they brought in. If the Lions can get away with staying at No. 7 and getting a quarterback, they should have a plan to do that, grab one in the top 10, and then add another needed playmaker later in the first round.

However, above all…

Make Sure You Come Away With Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, or Trey Lance

At this moment, I believe there is a chance that the final quarterback of Justin Fields, Trey Lance, or Zach Wilson could be available at No. 7 when the Lions get on the clock. The Jacksonville Jaguars are going to take Trevor Lawrence at the top; and even if we think the New York Jets will go quarterback and the Miami Dolphins will be trading back with a team to go up and get a quarterback, the Atlanta Falcons could stick with Matt Ryan, the Cincinnati Bengals won’t be taking a quarterback, and the Philadelphia Eagles won’t either. It would leave the Lions on the front end of that final quarterback in the top seven if that’s the way it goes. If only one quarterback goes between picks Nos. 2 and 3, even better. 

However, the Lions need to be ready with verbal agreements on the table with the Dolphins, Falcons, Bengals, and Eagles to be prepared to give up No. 7 and whatever other pick(s) they get in the Stafford deal (maybe even more) to make sure they get their player.

Of them, I like the idea of Lance coming in and not have to be pro-ready right off the bat. This Lions team is a year or two at the earliest away from really competing, and that could line up perfectly with Lance’s transition from FCS competition to the pros. 

Regardless, once the Lions eventually trade for Stafford, they’ll have their work cut out for them to make sure they cover their bases so as to not be left out of the rookie quarterback group come draft day.

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