Detroit Lions reportedly turned down Carolina’s No. 8 pick this year for Matthew Stafford

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
| Detroit Free Press

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Quantity over quality.

That was at least part of the Detroit Lions’ thinking when it came to deciding between trade offers for quarterback Matthew Stafford.

According to Sports Illustrated, the Carolina Panthers and Washington offered first-round picks in this spring’s NFL draft as part of packages for Stafford — packages the Lions’ ultimately rebuffed in favor of a deal with the Los Angeles Rams that netted them quarterback Jared Goff, a third-round pick this year and first-round choices in 2022 and 2023.

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The Panthers offered the highest draft pick, according to SI, No. 8 overall. That would have given the Lions two top-10 picks — they currently own the seventh pick of the first round — and allowed them to jumpstart what appears to be a massive rebuild this spring.

Washington, with former Lions general manager Martin Mayhew leading the trade talks, offered its first-round pick (No. 19) plus a third-rounder.

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A league source said over the weekend that the Lions had offers from seven or eight teams that included first-round picks, but SI noted some of that interest was flimsier than others.

The Indianapolis Colts discussed several packages with the Lions that included picks and players, but never offered its first-round pick, No. 21, according to SI.

The San Francisco 49ers got priced out of the market before making an official trade offer.

The Denver Broncos discussed a pick swap that SI reported “would have equated to a late first-round” choice. It is unclear if young quarterback Drew Lock would have been part of that return for Detroit.

[ Taking stock of Lions’ future NFL draft picks, in 2021 and beyond ]

And the New England Patriots, who offered a second-round pick and a player — and who Stafford reportedly did not want to play for — Chicago Bears and New York Jets were among other teams in on the discussions.

NBC Sports reported that one unknown team besides the Rams offered two first-round picks, and that the Lions would have received the picks sooner.

While Carolina and Washington emerged as the favorites to land Stafford on Saturday afternoon, the Rams eventually sweetened their initial offer of Goff, their 2022 first-round pick and an additional pick to the package that got the deal done.

The Lions’ decision to turn down a premium pick is striking in that true blue-chip players are hard to come by and the chance to have two top-10 selections likely would have given first-year general manager Brad Holmes the opportunity to both find his quarterback of the future and add one of the five best non-quarterback talents available.

The Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 1, Jets at No. 2 and Atlanta Falcons at No. 4 are among the quarterback-needy teams picking in front of the Lions.

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Instead, Holmes, the former Rams college scouting director, preferred to do a deal with his old team for a young but expensive quarterback he helped draft in Goff, who had fallen out of favor in L.A., and bet on his own ability to find talent later in the first round.

If the Rams make the playoffs the next two seasons, the first-round picks they send to the Lions will be no higher than 19 and likely in the 20s. As SI pointed out, the value of two 26th overall picks — the Rams finished with the 25th pick this season, which went to the Jacksonville Jaguars as part of last year’s Jalen Ramsey trade – is equal to the value of one No. 8 pick on the Jimmy Johnson trade value chart, though future year picks are typically discounted by a round in trades.

While a person familiar with the trade talks said the Lions did not give Stafford his choice of trade destinations and insisted the best deal happened to be with the team he was most excited about joining, SI reportedly that Stafford’s preferred landing spots were L.A., San Francisco and Indianapolis.

Neither of the teams offering the highest 2021 first-round picks, Carolina and Washington, appeared on his list.

Lions coach Dan Campbell, in an interview about 12 hours before the trade was consummated, told the Free Press that it was important the team find a quarterback “that helps you continue to grow as a team” and is “not somebody you’re just spinning your wheels with,” and he said he and Holmes were focused on doing what is in the best long-term interests of the team.

“Everything to me starts two years out, and it doesn’t start right now,” Campbell said. “And he’s the same way. Because I think when you look now, right now, of course we want to win and we’re going to make moves that improve this team, but the most important thing is for us to be able to sustain. And if we really want to be a winner in the (NFC) North consistently, we’re going to have to build this the right way.”

One trade addendum: According to SI, Stafford and Rams coach Sean McVay celebrated the trade together Saturday night in Los Cabos, Mexico, where they happened to be vacationing separately.

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.


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