The biggest domino of the offseason continue to be Tom Brady, but another fairly large domino may be creating a cloud of dust before Brady does.
Bernie Smilovitz of WDIV in Detroit reports that the Lions are trying to line up a trade of veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford.
“[T]rade talks concerning the quarterback have been underway for a couple of weeks,” Smilovitz says, citing unnamed sources close to Stafford and the Lions.
At this point, I’m just the messenger. The name “Bernie Smilovitz” has never before appeared on this page. This doesn’t make him wrong, but it definitely gives the report a far different initial vibe than if it came from someone with a track record of breaking Lions news specifically or NFL news generally.
As mentioned at the bottom of the WDIV story, Stafford’s wife, Kelly, has reacted to trade rumors on Instagram. She placed the message “Well, if Detroit is done with us” over an image of a story regarding trade talk. On the next page, which mentions the Chargers, she adds, “I could stay in Cali.”
Two factors make the possibility of a trade to the Chargers or anyone much harder to accomplish. First, trading Stafford would trigger a $32 million cap charge for 2020 — $19 million more than the $13 million that otherwise counts this year for past signing bonus and restructuring. The Lions would avoid only $8.3 million in salary and roster bonus this year, which makes his cash component dirt cheap (and which makes his contract, which runs through 2022, very easy to absorb by a new team).
Second, Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford’s comments indicating that no major changes would be made in 2020 also suggest that it is a prove-it-or-move-it year for the current coaching staff and front office. If coach Matt Patricia and G.M. Bob Quinn need to get to the playoffs or close to them this year, keeping Stafford in lieu of breaking in a new quarterback would likely enhance that. Throw in the fact that the Lions clearly are hearing fan complaints about the organization, and dumping Stafford would do little to secure the benefit of the doubt from the paying customers if 2020 starts off sideways.
So I’m skeptical of this one, for now. But even if Smilovitz is wrong, the fact that the report has been published serves an important purpose for the Lions: It could prompt someone who needs a quarterback to start thinking about Stafford, and possibly to make the Lions an offer they can’t refuse for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft.