NFL free agency preview: Detroit Lions’ Matthew Stafford trade set stage for big QB moves

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

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The free agent negotiating period opens March 15 and the Detroit Lions have holes to fill on both sides of the ball. Here is the first in a series of position-by-position breakdowns on the top players available in free agency and what the Lions might do at each position.

Quarterbacks

On the Lions’ roster for 2021: Jared Goff, Chase Daniel, David Blough.

Pending Lions free agents: None.

Top free agents: Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys; Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints; Cam Newton, New England Patriots.

Others who may interest Lions: Tyrod Taylor, Los Angeles Chargers.

Market watch: This isn’t a bad crop of free agent quarterbacks, but the real drama at the position is on the trade front. Already, the Lions have sent Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for Jared Goff and three draft picks, and the Philadelphia Eagles have traded Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts in moves that will not become official until later this month. Other quarterbacks could be on the move, too, with Deshaun Watson in a stalemate with the Houston Texans and Sam Darnold’s future uncertain with the New York Jets.

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Neither the Texans nor Jets appear to be a hurry to decide their future at the quarterback position, but don’t expect every team to sit around and wait for those situations to shake out. Prescott almost certainly will get franchise tagged for the second straight season if he and the Cowboys don’t reach agreement on a long-term contract, and Winston could return to New Orleans where he competes for the job left vacant by Drew Brees’ likely retirement. Newton, Alex Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Marcus Mariota, who remains under contract with the Las Vegas Raiders, also could find new homes in starting or prominent backup roles.

The Lions are unlikely landing spots for those quarterbacks, and may not be in the market for one at all. Daniel could be a cap casualty even with $1.5 million of his $4.3 million base salary guaranteed as he failed to impress in 2020, though he did play for Lions coach Dan Campbell with the Saints in 2017. Blough should stick as a cheap backup for a cap-strapped team that could stand to take a young quarterback at some point in the draft. Alternatively, the Lions could pursue Taylor for a backup role, as he has played for new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn in stops with the Los Angeles Chargers and Buffalo Bills. If you’re connecting dots on potential fits, free agent Blake Bortles served as Goff’s backup with the Rams last season. 

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

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