After a dozen seasons in Detroit, quarterback Matthew Stafford will be moving on. So where will he go?
Plenty of teams will be interested, especially with a contract that pays out only $20 million in 2021. (He may want a new deal on the way through the door, however.) Despite being only a one-time Pro Bowler (which seems very strange), Stafford has been one of the better quarterbacks of the past 12 years.
Or maybe the better phrase is “better passer.” As full-blown quarterbacks go, something always has been just a bit off. Stafford has seemed reluctant to lead in the way that players like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady do, imposing their will vocally onto others.
Stafford instead tends to lead by example. Unfortunately, the Lions haven’t put enough good players around him for that to make a difference.
He’s still a great thrower, and he has a real toughness when it comes to playing through injuries. Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians (who presumably won’t need a quarterback if Tom Brady returns) raved about Stafford before last month’s Saturday afternoon game between Tampa Bay and Detroit.
For many teams, Stafford provides an immediate upgrade as a passer. Interested teams, right off the bat, should include the Patriots, Steelers (if Ben Roethlisberger retires), Colts, Texans (if Deshaun Watson is traded), Raiders, Broncos, Washington, Bears, Panthers, Saints, Falcons (if Matt Ryan is traded), and 49ers (if Jimmy Garoppolo is traded).
Stafford’s next team will need a leadership structure that doesn’t require Stafford to carry that mantle. Or perhaps he needs the right kind of coaching. Or maybe he just needs some consistency in coaching, given the revolving door in Detroit over the past decade.
Then there’s the question of where Stafford wants to go. If a team is interested in Stafford but Stafford isn’t interested in that team, it won’t be a good match.
Still only 32 (he turns 33 on Super Bowl Sunday), Stafford has plenty of quality years left. And his next act quickly will become a Bizarro Brady-Belichick analysis. Who’s more responsible for 12 years of crap, organization or quarterback?
We’ll find out, starting this year. The first, and perhaps most important, question becomes where his second act will happen.