What Matthew Stafford can reasonably bring Lions in terms of value, likely trade partners

Detroit News

Justin Rogers
 
| The Detroit News

Matthew Stafford is officially on the trade block. The Detroit Lions and their longtime franchise quarterback have mutually agreed to part ways, with the team expected to immediately begin fielding trade offers. 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the logical trade partners and what the Lions could reasonable expect in exchange for Stafford. 

Indianapolis Colts

If there’s an obvious fit, this is the one. As we wrote about earlier in the week, the Colts suddenly have a massive hole at quarterback following Philip Rivers retirement. More importantly, they have a ton of cap space to absorb Stafford’s $20 million salary. 

Even though Indianapolis was bounced in the first round of the playoffs, they remain a fringe Super Bowl contender, built around an outstanding defense. They also have shown a willingness to trade top-end draft assets for immediate impact, sending a first-round pick to the 49ers last season for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. 

► Asking price: First-round (No. 21) and fourth-round picks in 2021.  

San Francisco 49ers 

In 2018, The 49ers shipped a second-round pick to the Patriots for current quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. He helped get them to the Super Bowl last year, but was decidedly average in 2020 during an injury-plagued season.  Despite inking a massive five-year, $135 million contract a couple offseason ago, the team has an easy out, with under $3 million in dead money remaining on the deal. 

Stafford is an upgrade, for sure, but the 49ers also have bigger problems with a significant number of players getting set to hit free agency and a marginal amount of cap space to retain many of them. Switching from one QB to the other doesn’t clear many additional funds. 

But if they’re determined, they have plenty of assets, and will be adding more after Martin Mayhew and Robert Saleh’s departures earn the franchise compensatory selections for developing minority candidates. 

► Asking price: It’s probably too much to expect the 49ers to give up the No. 13 pick, but a 2021 second-rounder, 2021 third-rounder and 2022 second-rounder is a reasonable ask. 

Houston Texans

This is the rare case where the Lions would have to give up more. Stafford could be part of a package to bring disgruntled quarterback Deshaun Watson to Detroit. It’s a longshot, for sure, since he has a no-trade clause, but it’s worth inquiring. 

Watson is a superstar, arguably the second-best asset in the NFL behind Patrick Mahomes when you factor in both skill set and age. Plus, Watson is under contractual control the next five seasons. 

► Asking price: Lions send Stafford, the No. 7 pick in 2021 and their 2022 first-round pick in exchange for Watson. 

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are apparently hot to trot for Watson, and who could blame them? But if they can’t pull off that blockbuster, Stafford wouldn’t be a terrible consolation prize. 

In exchange, the Lions could probably pull back Tua Tagovailoa, the quarterback they passed on in favor of cornerback Jeff Okudah in last year’s draft. 

► Asking price: Tagovailoa and one of Miami’s two second-round picks in 2021. 

More: Quarterbacks in draft Lions might consider in a Matthew Stafford-less future

Washington Football Team

Mayhew, the former Lions GM just landed the same role in Washington. He drafted Stafford and shortly before getting fired by the franchise, lauded the quarterback as a future Hall of Famer. 

Alex Smith, in his return from one of the most gruesome leg injuries you’ll ever see, is one of the league’s all-time, feel-good stories. Still, he wasn’t the same player, largely relying on check-downs in 2020, averaging just 6.3 yards per pass attempt. 

Washington snuck into the playoffs this year because their division is terrible, but Ron Rivera is a good coach and the future is bright with a hyper-talented defensive line and some good, young pieces on offense. They’re also in good space with the cap to fit Stafford on to the roster. 

► Asking price: First-round (No. 19) and fourth-round picks in 2021.  

New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees is reportedly retiring, and despite a decent audition by Swiss Army gadget Taysom Hill while Brees was out injured this season, it’s still a stretch to say he’s their long-term answer. 

In reality, the Saints might be looking at a full rebuild. More than any other team, they’re in cap hell. Even knocking Brees’ $25 million salary off the books will only put a dent in solving the problem. 

Then again, GM Mickey Loomis has done a masterful job of kicking the can down the road in the past. And with Stafford, they’d be in position to make another run at a Super Bowl in 2021. 

► Asking price: First-round (No. 28) and third-round picks in 2021.

New England Patriots

Stafford wasn’t a big fan of the Patriot way, and he and former head coach Matt Patricia got off to a rocky start before smoothing things out the last two seasons working together. That said, there’s nothing Stafford wants more than to win and attaching himself to Bill Belichick would be beneficial to both player and coach. 

The Patriots aren’t as bad as their record suggests from this past season. People forget how many of their defenders opted out of the 2020 campaign. And while no one is going to write a glowing review of New England’s offensive weapons, Stafford could certainly draw more out of them than they’ve given to this point. 

The Patriots have the cap space to make a bold strike, as well as draft assets to dangle in front of the Lions. 

► Asking price: First-round (No. 15) and fourth-round picks in 2021.

Dallas Cowboys

For years, people have wondered if the Cowboys would make a run at bringing the hometown kid back to Dallas. With no resolution with Dak Prescott, who the team used the franchise tag on a year ago, the timing could be right. 

The Cowboys have an average amount of cap space, but they’re not in the dire situation they were a year ago. And you know Stafford would love to play behind that offensive line, particularly with that running game. 

Asking price: 2021 second-rounder, 2021 third-rounder and 2022 third-rounder.

(Although let’s be honest, you might get Jerry Jones to bite and part with the No. 10 pick)

Denver Broncos

The Broncos have a new general manager, George Paton, who is intimately familiar with Stafford having spent the entirety of the quarterback’s career working with division rival Minnesota. 

Denver has a quarterback, former first-round pick Drew Lock, but sticking with him would require a lot of faith he’ll develop beyond the below-average player he was in 2020, when he completed 57.3 percent of his passes and had nearly as many interceptions (15) and touchdown passes (16). 

John Elway isn’t calling the shots anymore, but he’s shown a willingness to swing for the fences at the QB position, winning a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning. With some ultra-talented young weapons in place, could Elway convince Paton to make a run at Stafford? 

► Asking price: 2021 second-rounder, 2021 third-rounder and 2022 third-rounder.

Carolina Panthers

Unless the Lions agree to take back Teddy Bridgewater as a stopgap, and his similar $18 million salary in 2021, this doesn’t make too much sense for Carolina. The Panthers were reasonably competitive in Matt Rhule’s first season as coach, especially given star running back Christian McCaffrey missed most of the year, but they’re still a ways away from contention. 

► Asking price: 2021 second-rounder, 2021 third-rounder and 2022 third-rounder.

Pittsburgh Steelers

It’s still up in the air whether Ben Roethlisberger will return for another season, and the Steelers seem to be making contingency plans, signing former first-round pick Dwayne Haskins earlier this week. 

But no one is going to reasonably suggest Haskins is a better option than Stafford if there’s a desire to make another Super Bowl run in Pittsburgh. It would also make for an interesting reunion with tight end Eric Ebron. 

► Asking price: First-round (No. 24) and fourth-round picks in 2021, plus a third-rounder in 2022. 

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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