New Detroit Lions GM Brad Holmes sounds like he wants to keep Matthew Stafford at QB

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

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It was the second question of his introductory news conference Tuesday, and given the magnitude of the decision, it was somewhat surprising it was not the first.

Brad Holmes made no promises about Matthew Stafford’s future at quarterback, but the new Detroit Lions general manager sure sounded like a man who wants Stafford on his team in 2021.

“Matthew, great player,” Holmes said. “And what you really appreciate is, I think the talent level is easy to see. But you really appreciate how his intangibles show on film. Just how urgent he plays, how competitive he is and the toughness that he shows.”

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Holmes said he plans “to evaluate the entire roster” in the coming weeks and has not had any discussions with Stafford or other players in the five days since he was hired.

But despite the Lions’ 5-11 record, and despite the fact they have not had a winning season since 2017, Holmes said the Lions are not in rebuilding mode and he wants to field the most competitive team possible this fall.

“That starts right this year in entering the 2021 season,” he said. “So not viewing this as, ‘Oh, this’ll be a long-term (rebuild). I don’t know how long-term it’s going to take.’ That’s not the approach, that’s not the mindset going into it. The approach is to make sure that we can make the most competitive team possible out there on the field in 2021.”

Stafford, almost certainly, will be the Lions’ best option at quarterback for the 2021 season.

Three weeks from his 33rd birthday, he still is playing high-level football and is a top-half-of-the-NFL quarterback. He completed 64.2% of his passes this season, topped 4,000 yards for the eighth time in his career and played all 16 games despite battling thumb, rib and ankle injuries down the stretch.

This year’s crop of free agent quarterbacks is light on difference makers and even lighter on serviceable signal callers the Lions can afford, and Stafford is bound to be a better short-term option than any quarterback the Lions could get with the No. 7 pick in the draft.

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READ: Lions GM Brad Holmes: This will be a retooling, not a long-term rebuild

That does not mean the Lions won’t draft a quarterback, however. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is the presumptive No. 1 pick, while Ohio State’s Justin Fields, BYU’s Zach Wilson, Alabama’s Mac Jones and North Dakota State’s Trey Lance all could go in the top half of the first round.

Stafford, who has two years left on his current contract, has yet to affirm his commitment to the Lions for 2021.

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He said after a season-ending loss to the Minnesota Vikings that he planned to take time to decompress from the season and figure out his future with his family.

He seemed frustrated with the state of the organization at times, and has made it known he does not want to be part of a rebuild, so Holmes’ approach could appease his desires to win now and in Detroit.

“I got two years left on my deal here, so there’s a lot to discuss,” Stafford said after the Vikings loss. “I’ll obviously keep that between my family and I and all that, but we’ll figure it out at some other date, I’m sure.”

Along with Stafford’s future, Holmes and new head coach Dan Campbell, whose hire is expected to be finalized later this week, have much massaging to do on their roster.

Top wide receiver Kenny Golladay is a free agent and may require the franchise tag to keep. Sack leader Romeo Okwara also is on an expiring deal. And the Lions have major holes to fill on all three levels of their defense, plus potential starters to find at receiver, right guard and kicker.

Holmes said “there are some building blocks on this defense currently,” and however he fills out the roster, he wants to do it with reliable players who have a passion for football.

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“Obviously, we will address that side of the ball just like we’ll address the offensive side of the ball,” Holmes said. “There is no area that we won’t work to improve.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. 

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Detroit Lions GM Brad Holmes on his longtime history with the city

New Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes was introduced Jan. 19, 2021, and talks about his uncle Luther Bradley’s career here.

Detroit Lions

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