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  • Ewan Williamson

Best Trade Destinations For Matthew Stafford

Detroit Lions quarterback Matt Stafford has asked for a trade. New Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell has suggested that trade talks have become “hot and heavy” in recent days and so we look today at which NFL teams are most likely to make a move for the Pro Bowl QB in a deal that could come prior to Super Bowl LV.

Detroit Lions Matthew Stafford celebrates during a 2020 NFL season game. Stafford has asked for a trade away from Detroit and we look at which teams offer the most likely destination for the star quarterback in this article

By Ewan Williamson

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The Detroit Lions are very rarely the talk of the league. Without a playoff win since 1991, and just four winning seasons since Stafford entered the NFL as the premier pick of the 2009 Draft. But for a brief moment last week, the Lions were shaping up to be one of the NFL’s main offseason talking points.

This is partly thanks to newly appointed Head Coach Dan Campbell. The former New Orleans Saints Tight End Coach delivered one of the most electrifying introductory press conferences in recent memory. His drill sergeant “Football Guy” persona juxtaposed with the fresh-faced innovative play callers which have defined the NFL’s head coaching appointments over the last couple years.

Whether it was due to an unwillingness to bite kneecaps or not, within a day or so NFL insider Tom Pelissero confirmed what many NFL heads had thought for some time; Stafford wanted out.

Stafford was not the first of the NFL’s top signal-callers to express his disenchantment this offseason. The friction between Deshaun Watson and those at the top of the Houston Texans organisation has been well documented by now. But Stafford presents a different option to the Herschel Walker-like haul of picks that Watson is bound to demand.

Stafford, despite holding an abundance of Lions passing records, and being the fastest player to reach each major passing milestone up to 45,000 yards, has only made one Pro Bowl in his 12-year NFL career. Stunted by a franchise which seems to have mastered under-achieving like no other, it feels like at age 32 we have not yet seen a true reflection of what the former Georgia Bulldog can do in this league.

Perhaps this is best evidenced by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reporting that one-third of NFL teams have enquired to the Detroit Lions about the possibility of acquiring the former number one pick. With the NFL boasting more Quarterback talent than it has for several years, 33% of teams feeling as though Stafford could be their answer under center speaks highly of how his ability is perceived within the League.

A Matthew Stafford trade could signal what is likely to be a domino effect in an offseason that could bring around a sea of change at the Quarterback position. Let’s look at some of the frontrunners to win the sweepstakes.

Indianapolis Colts General Manager Chris Ballard during a press conference ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft
Chris Ballard has assembled a strong roster that has the Indianapolis Colts in a Super Bowl window. Could Matthew Stafford help to put them over the top?

Indianapolis Colts

As of now, the team with the best odds to acquire Stafford is my Indianapolis Colts. Coming off a 11-5 season, the Colts have assembled a roster which appears to be one in a potential Super Bowl window. One small problem - they do not have a quarterback under contract through 2021 with an NFL start.

With two starting quarterbacks having retired in the last 18 months, it seems as though General Manager Chris Ballard has done everything right to assemble a strong roster, apart from one thing: replace Andrew Luck. This, as you can imagine, is easier said than done.

Stafford to Indy makes almost too much sense. A veteran QB who is held in high regard around the league, with likely 5-7 years left in the tank. The only question is whether the Colts will be able to offer a package enticing enough to bring Stafford to Lucas Oil. Picking at 21st in round one of the 2021 NFL Draft, many of Stafford’s other suitors will likely have higher picks.

Jeremy Fowler reported that the Colts were a destination Stafford “definitely has his eye on.” With an offensive line that was ranked 7th by PFF in 2020, and 3rd the year before, it follows that this would be a tantalizing landing spot for Stafford.

Rookie Jonathan Taylor excelled behind the line in the closing stages of the 2020 Season. While Stafford has only been accompanied by a 100-yard rusher in 11 of 166 career games. A backfield and protection that would rival that of any Stafford has played with in his career. Perhaps the Colts’ fate will be decided by how much the Lions take on board the wishes of their greatest ever quarterback.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo walks off the field after a 2020 NFL season game
Matthew Stafford would be an upgrade over Jimmy Garoppolo, but will the 49ers cut ties with a quarterback only 12 months removed from a Super Bowl appearance?

San Francisco 49ers

One team that seems destined to be linked with every passer ‘til the end of days is Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers. The Niners season was derailed by a string of injuries to key players, including their Super Bowl QB, Jimmy Garoppolo. Jimmy G’s time in the Bay area has been hampered by injuries. When fit in his only full season as a starter, he led the team to a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl appearance.

Only Kyle Shanahan really knows what he thinks about Garoppolo, who has been heavily scrutinized ever since he signed a lucrative, long-term deal with the team in 2018. While key voices around the NFL see Stafford as an upgrade, and the 49ers as one of the most promising places to make use of his talents, it remains to be seen whether the Niners will entertain the idea. Either way, sitting at pick 12 in the 2021 Draft, this will be attractive to the Lions if it becomes available in Stafford trade discussions.

For Stafford himself, the allure of working with Kyle Shanahan seems an obvious pull. The 41-year-old is widely considered to be one of the best offensive minds in the game. His fast-paced offensive scheme prioritises pre-snap movement, with the playbook being dominated by outside zones and play-action passes.

The misdirection at the heart of the 49ers scheme is a dream for most NFL quarterbacks. It creates the opportunity for chunk plays and quick check downs in equal measure. For a player entering the latter stages of their career, an offense which will protect, support, and make use of his arm strength will no doubt be an attractive prospect to Stafford.

Drew Lock the quarterback for the Denver Broncos looks on during a 2020 NFL season game. Lock may be moved aside as the firt choice quarterback in the near future
Drew Lock is probably not the long term answer at quarterback for the Denver Broncos. Could new General Manager George Paton make his first major move with a trade for Matthew Stafford?

Denver Broncos

The team perhaps surprisingly given the second-best odds to acquire Stafford is the Denver Broncos. Where Denver stands a better chance than their contemporaries is with their possession of the 9th overall pick, which is higher than the firsts occupied by my most of the other front-runners. The Broncos have certainly been in quarterback purgatory since the Sherriff rode off into the sunset after Super Bowl 50. It seemed like they may have finally found their man in Drew Lock, but he struggled in 2020 after emerging with a 4-1 record as a starter the season prior.

Acquiring a proven veteran was an unmitigated success when the Broncos did just that almost 10 years ago. While no one expects Stafford to throw for 5,000 yards and 50 TDs, he could be viewed as the answer to a succession of quarterback woes for John Elway and new General Manager George Paton.

The question remains whether the Broncos would be as attractive to Stafford as he is to them. League-wide reports suggest Stafford’s reasoning for wanting out of Detroit is his reluctance to be at the heart of yet another rebuild in the Motor City.

Whether the Broncos fall into the “win now” category which is surely most tempting to Stafford is undetermined. The nucleus of the roster includes Pro Bowlers Von Miller and Justin Simmons, along with the likes of Bradley Chubb, Melvin Gordon, Courtland Sutton, and Jerry Jeudy.

Whether or not this would be enough of a supporting cast to alert Stafford is unclear. However, with some big names hitting Free Agency, the Broncos could move to surround Stafford with some premier talent if the opportunity to acquire him became available.

Which other teams are outside bets worth monitoring?

These three teams may appear to be leading the charge for Stafford’s services, but there are a group of other interested suitors who cannot be counted out. The Los Angeles Rams haven’t minced their words when it comes to their probable divorce from fellow former number one overall pick Jared Goff. But without a first rounder in 2021, their chances of making the Lions a suitable offer seems slim.

The Washington Football Team seems another possible destination. Their late season form propelled them to the number four seed in the NFC. With four starting quarterbacks seeing the field last year, they’ll be looking for more stability at the position.

The New England Patriots are viewed as another contender as they look to bounce back from their first playoff absence since the 2008 season.

Stafford’s situation is not even the headline news in the quarterback merry-go-round which is destined to dominate this off-season. Of the 32 NFL teams, only 10 or so seem to be happily married to their quarterback.

As we have seen over the last few seasons, teams are much more willing to be aggressive with how they address the quarterback position, with signal callers hitting the trade block and Free Agency who we never would have previously expected.

Matthew Stafford is just the latest name to join this list. Only time will tell where the long-time Lions talisman finds a new home.

Where is Matt Stafford's best fit? Are there any other trade destinations that you believe suit him better? Let us know on Twitter or join our group on Facebook and start the debate!

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