Lions won’t have much time to make a decision on Matthew Stafford


The first order of business for the Detroit Lions, once the season ends, will be hiring a General Manager and a head coach. The second order of business for the Lions — and the first order of business for the new G.M. and coach — will be to make a decision on quarterback Matthew Stafford.

On the fifth day of the 2021 league year, which tentatively begins on March 21, Stafford will earn a $10 million roster bonus. So if the Lions are going to trade or cut Stafford, $10 million hinges on the decision coming before then.

Stafford has a $9.5 million base salary and a $500,000 workout bonus, pushing his total compensation for 2021 to $20 million. The fact that half of the money comes due so early forces a quick decision by the Lions, preventing them from keeping Stafford and his family in limbo. It’s a smart term that often doesn’t appear in the out years of a veteran contract, but definitely should. In Stafford’s case, it will give him clarity early in the annual offseason game of musical chairs.

Trading Stafford would avoid the $20 million in cash and cap obligation for 2021, but it would trigger a $24.85 million cap charge for 2021. Cutting him with a post-June 1 designation eventually would spread the consequences over two years, with $14.95 million landing in 2021 and the remaining $9.9 million hitting in 2022.

Keeping Stafford without any type of restructuring or extension will mean a $34.95 million cap charge for Stafford  in 2020.

Thus, whatever the Lions do, it’s going to create a cap issue, and if they keep Stafford there also will be a cash issue. The fact that moving Stafford saves $20 million on the heels of a season with reduced revenues due to the pandemic could make it very tempting to cut and run on the balance of Stafford’s contract.

Another factor in the overall conversation will be Stafford’s wishes. If he doesn’t want to stay with the next new regime in Detroit (or if his wife just wants out of Michigan altogether), that will be a factor in whether the Lions would pay so much to keep him around.

Some will say that the Lions should keep Stafford because no good alternatives exist. It’s too early to know, however, which quarterbacks will be available via free agency or trade. There also will be a new crop of quarterbacks in the draft. And even if the Lions can’t acquire a quarterback who’ll win a playoff game, well, they haven’t had one of those since January 1992, when Stafford was three years old.

44 responses to “Lions won’t have much time to make a decision on Matthew Stafford

  1. Stafford is the least of the Lions worries. You want to draft his successor? Fine. For God’s sake, don’t be stupid and get rid of him next year. He has two years left on his contract at reasonable cap numbers. How about you give him a defense and a running game for once?

  2. A mid-tier QB for $20 million/year is a good deal–and that’s exactly what Stafford is. The Lions should look for a trade first and see what they can get. If it’s a good offer, move him. If not keep him but draft his replacement in the Spring. In any case, the Lions need to move on soon.

  3. Lions should definitely try to trade him. It just didn’t work in Detroit. Probably best for both parties to separate.

  4. I think they deal him. He will never say so publicly, but I don’t think he wants tp be around for another rebuild. He’s beena good soldier here, and he’s earned the right to be dealt to a team and needs a qb to make a run at it.

    Dallas is a serious possibility. Dak might not he ready for the season, and who knows if he is evee going to be the same. Jerry Jones didn’t exactly seem to be love with Dak before the injury. He’s also from the area. He could step in and hold it down, or even take over.

  5. Blame whomever you want, but Stafford has zero playoff wins. Staying in Detroit makes no sense for the team or the player.

  6. tm05 says:
    December 5, 2020 at 10:03 am
    12 years, 0 playoff wins.

    Stafford is not a winner. Period.

    That’s kind of like saying Barry Sanders isn’t a winner. Same for Herman Moore or Calvin Johnson. It’s the Lions. Come on.

  7. “Daily reminder that wins are not a QB stat“
    Shhhh don’t tell that to Tom Brady fans lol

  8. Trade him for Carson Wentz.
    Ha ha!
    J.Caldwell was deemed as not good enough too…
    You could end up with way worst than Stafford.
    Keep him and draft a QB to devellop.
    Lions have many areas to improve before the QB position:
    “Detroit heads into Sunday ranked 31st in points allowed, 29th in total defense, 28th against the run and 26th against the pass.”

  9. i dont know why this is even a discussion. You keep Stafford. He’s a good QB and needs a team around him. They trade or cut him and they’re left with nothing. Obviously a different discussion if they have a top 2 draft pick lined up, but they’re likely picking in the 8-10 range if they continue their current trajectory. Part of me does want to see him go to a contender like Saints or Bucs who’s QBs are going to retire soon, but the Lions would be stupid to move on from him at this point, he has at least 5 more good years left before age catches up with him

  10. Stafford to the Bears just flashed into my head and it was downright frightening.

    ~Packers fan

  11. Do what Miami did and start over, tear it down completely.

    Acquire assets, clear the cap, build it anew.

    Matt Ryan, while much more successful, probably in a similar situation with a team that needs to start over. I could see Stafford go to Atlanta as a bridge QB for them while Matt Ryan goes to SF for 2-3 years so Shanahan doesn’t have to start over with a rookie QB.

    Will be a VERY interesting off season for QB chatter. What will Tampa do? Can’t bring back Brady obviously!

  12. Whatever you do, don’t weep for Matthew Stafford. At $20 million/year, it would take a poor working stiff 200 years at $100K/yr to make what Stafford makes in one year.

    This whole sports thing is out of control.

  13. Hey Lions — trade Stafford to the Vikings! They are always looking to bring in a veteran QB because they never develop one of their own!!
    I actually feel sorry for Stafford. He always gives his best and has had a lot of good moments, but the Lions — like the Vikings — are always run poorly and never win anything.
    Think about this. The last time the Lions won a championship in the NFL, Dwight Eisenhower was President!
    And the Vikings are still waiting for their first NFL Championship. The Vikings are so bad, the guy or gal who will be President when they finally win a championship probably hasn’t been born yet!

  14. He’s out. Not only does it make financial sense, their gonna have to rebuild. That will take time. Stafford is 32. Draft a guy to develop and sign a cheap bridge guy. That’s the play. Get something back if you can.

  15. bondlake says: “Whatever you do, don’t weep for Matthew Stafford. At $20 million/year, it would take a poor working stiff 200 years at $100K/yr to make what Stafford makes in one year.

    This whole sports thing is out of control.”

    Stop whining and don’t watch football. Then NFL revenue will fall by a couple hundred dollars, salary cap goes down $10 per team and QBs will lose about $2 off their salary… Good luck.

    Stafford is 1 of 32 people out of the US population of 330 million people that can do what he does. Millions are entertained every week. I only worry about my paycheck, not someone else’s.

  16. Trade him to Washington for 3rd round pick we have 3 of them that we’ll be very good move we have a defense and good receiver and nice future running back if I was Washington I will make this trade

  17. Another piece of the equation is whether the Lions are going to do a total rebuild or more of a retooling.

    If they want to do a total rebuild then they should move on from Stafford, as well as some of their other better players that are not on rookie contracts. Move those mid-career players elsewhere in exchange for as many draft picks as possible. Ensure those picks are in the next two drafts and then start building. You’ll likely lose a lot of games the first season after the moves and that could be a very good thing. (Lose enough and you can get your next franchise QB.)

  18. pooman420 says:

    December 5, 2020 at 10:26 am

    Daily reminder that wins are not a QB stat.

    Well although i agree they shouldnt be a qb stat you should keep your daily reminder because they are actually a qb stat. Go to any site with player career stats and qb win-loss record is listed as well as any 4th quarter comebacks. When you listen to tv broadcasts they also talk about win/loss record as it pertains to the qb. So yes although it shouldnt be a qb stat or at least should be a stat minimized when evaluating a player it is in fact a qb stat

  19. GM Louis Riddick and HC Robert Salah. That’s the dealio. Riddick will keep Stafford around a do a great job repairing the broken relationship w Calvin and other past Lion legends the pretentious Patriot boys damaged.

  20. The Lions are just another organization that squanders talent. Stafford has never had a complete team around him. Calvin Johnson the same. Billy Simms, Barry Sanders, Herman Moore, etc, etc.
    It seems the Lions always have a couple of shiny players and then they encompass them with duds. Seriously, I am indifferent to the Lions, but if they ever made a legit playoff run, I’d enjoy seeing them succeed. In a city that has Champions in all their other teams, it’s amazing how long the Lions have just been the bad smell in the city for sports.

  21. I predict the Lions are going to Go on at tear these last remaining weeks and win their division..!

  22. They need to move him. By the time the Lions rebuild and maybe end up 9-7 10-6 they are going to be drafting the the 16-22 range at best. Starting QB’s are slim pickings in the draft at that point.

  23. My assumption is that if you are getting rid of Matthew Stafford then the Lions are starting over. In that case, it would be best to take the full cap hit in one year instead of spreading it out over two years. The Lions will have a lot more financial flexibility in year two.

  24. The Almighty Cabbage says:
    December 5, 2020 at 10:52 am
    Stafford to the Bears just flashed into my head and it was downright frightening.

    ~Packers fan
    Stafford on the Bears with the same offensive line, frightening, for him. Let us know when you remember what the salary cap is.

  25. As a Lions follower, trade him. He deserves a better situation. However, he’s not one to win a game by himself and I’ve grown tired of his not having running game as an excuse for his poor performances, other QB’s have been successful without this.

  26. Stafford isn’t the problem. There are about 40 other problem players on that team who are.

  27. How many more times will you insist on mentioning the lack of a playoff win since ‘92? I think that fact is very clear to 100% of the people who visit this website

  28. He’s been the best player at Detroit sans Megatron for as long as he’s been there. Better not do him they way they did Calvin, but I wouldn’t put it past them.

  29. Evaluating QBs in vacuum is silly. A QB needs good offensive line, a or two good running backs for RPO and at least one HOF receivers, Lions have not had al three for last 15 years. Put Stafford on chiefs and still takes you to divisional or championship game. Then they need defence. If defence is giving touchdown every down, QBs are forced to take risks which results in turn overs

  30. New head coach and GM would be better off moving on from Stafford and starting over. He’ll generate some trade interest, and doubtless add to their draft capital if traded.

  31. I hate the people who complain about counting Teams Win for or against a QB, but then regularly cite Touchdowns.

    Touchdowns are a team stat too. You need an offensive line to give you time and someone to catch the ball.

    There’s no such thing as a solo stat in football because everything you do is so reliant on what your teammates are doing. But the QB and the offense do get the ball just as many times as the opposition does. So, if you lose a lot of games, YES, it is a reflection on the QB. That means the opposing QB is regularly outplaying you.

  32. Team was shut against the panthers and essentially could be said against the Texans. Offense is a problem, Matt Stafford

  33. To all those who question Stafford’s ability or heart

    How long has he been in the league now? 13, 14 years? And the whole time he has been a starting QB. Now in that time, how many other QB’s have been and gone and how many are still going from back when he started? 4. Brady, Rodgers, Ben and Rivers.

    My point being is you don’t get to be a starting QB in this league if you are not damn good. Also, how many times over the years in the league has he been the only bright light on that team. If they want to attract a good GM and head coach, I would argue Stafford is one helluva selling point.

  34. And even if the Lions can’t acquire a quarterback who’ll win a playoff game, well, they haven’t had one of those since January 1992,
    They also haven’t had an offensive line or a defense who could win a playoff game since 1992. Detroit’s problems are much bigger than Stafford. New ownership (Sheila Hamp), New GM, New Coach – it’s a total housecleaning. I think parting ways with Stafford would make sense for the team and for Stafford. But they need to get more than a 3rd round draft pick and free soft drinks for a year.

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