It’s official. Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is officially on the market — the former No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft. While this news doesn’t set the NFL world on fire in quite the same way as the trade rumors swirling around (current) Houston's 25-year-old QB Deshaun Watson, Stafford is one of the most intriguing veteran options to become available in the last few seasons.
Two of the better draft analysts out there are The Draft Network's Kyle Crabbs and Joe Marino. On their The Draft Dudes podcast, Kyle and Joe discussed what a no-brainer it would be for the Denver Broncos to trade for Stafford and instead debated what a fair cost would be to obtain the quarterback. Here's the crux (listen at 32:23-35:01).
"This is a one (first-rounder), and picks, and a player," Crabbs said.
"A one, Drew Lock, DaeSean Hamilton, and a two (second-rounder)?" Marino queried.
"Yeah," Crabbs said. "And the reason being [Stafford's] going to be 33 this season, he's under contract for the next two seasons, you will have an extended runway beyond that. If he continues to play well, extend him and keep him under contract. This is not just a one-year pay-off. Financially, you're paying him $43 million over two years for a guy who's a top-10 physical talent at the position."
The Argument for Stafford-to-Denver
The proposed package to acquire Stafford from The Draft Dudes was a bit of a reach, suggesting Denver should trade picks No. 9, 40, a 2022 second-rounder, Drew Lock, and wideout DaeSean Hamilton. Marino and Crabbs went on to compare this projected trade offer for Stafford to what Denver commanded for Jay Cutler in the infamous trade with the Chicago Bears in 2009.
However, the big caveat they missed was that Stafford will be 33, whereas Cutler was just 25 years old when the Broncos dealt him to Chicago. Obviously, Stafford is a more known and proven commodity but the age difference is substantial.
The trade that should be compared to when discussing a Stafford-to-Denver scenario was the Cincinnati-Oakland trade of Carson Palmer which sent a first- and second-rounder to the Bengals back in 2011.
The Ask for Stafford: A Pretty Penny
If Denver is to be truly in on the Stafford trade market, there is no doubt the Broncos will have to be willing to part with the No. 9 overall pick. Some may say that is too high of a cost but that is just the reality of the situation for a quarterback like Stafford given his talent, years left of play, and contract.
Beyond that first-rounder, it likely takes a Day 2 pick this year and a starting-caliber talent. While the 'Draft Dudes' suggested Hamilton, I'd think Tim Patrick would be a more interesting trade chip given the barren wasteland that is the Lions’ wide receiver room going into this offseason.
It's rumored that with the capital the Lions will ultimately receive for Stafford, the team will look to package the trade and the No 7 overall pick to be aggressive and move up for a quarterback. While Clemson's Trevor Lawrence will be off the table, no doubt one of BYU's Zach Wilson, North Dakota STate's Trey Lance, or Ohio State's Justin Fields will be within range.
These rumors suggest adding Lock to a prospective trade package may not be anything more than a lottery ticket throw-away in the eyes of the Lions. Upside? Sure, but not in the same realm as the perceived upside of the top QB prospects in this draft class.
Allure of Stafford's Attributes
At soon-to-be 33, Stafford is no spring chicken by any means but he still has 3-8 years of good play left in the tank. He currently sits in the range of the top-8-to-12 most talented QBs in the NFL.
While the 'QBWinz' crowd will point to the Lions’ win/loss record over the duration of his career, the nuanced view of Stafford's tenure must include an understanding of his circumstances in Detroit. Whether it be Detroit's incredible run of absolutely horrific defenses or the lack of a running game to help dictate defenders in the box, there can be no doubt that the Lions have historically done a horrific job surrounding Stafford with a competent roster year in and year out. Perhaps it's unsurprising for a team that squandered the likes of Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson, but I digress.
The Lock Question
The Broncos are being continuously linked to quarterbacks through the early stages of this offseason, likely in large part due to the NFL's overall perception of Lock. Ranking in the bottom-5 in many important categories, coming off back-to-back seasons with time-costing injury, and with just two years left of contractual control over the former second-round pick, Denver is by no means ‘married’ to Lock.
Those close to the situation may cry out for patience and more time, decrying circumstances surrounding the Lock situation as 'not fair' but simply put, the league is not fair. You either overcome adversity or you fade away in the annals of time.
Those are the breaks in the NFL. It will never be fair. Fair or not, Lock hasn’t done enough to warrant an unquestionable starting spot for the Broncos in 2021. As the kids say, “them's the breaks.”
Paton Would be Remiss to Not Call Detroit
The merit of whether or not Denver's new GM George Paton should call on Stafford is without question. Stafford would be an upgrade at the quarterback position, giving the Broncos a top-12 signal-caller surrounded by an insane level of talent, although young, on the offensive side of the ball. The more important questions to ask, though are, what will the cost be? And is that cost worth it?
It would require some sort of bias (if not cognitive dissonance) to suggest Paton shouldn't pick up the phone and call to check on the cost to acquire Stafford. It remains to be seen whether Paton will be willing to part ways with a decent amount of draft capital in a market filled with teams absolutely desperate for a quarterback this year such as the San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts, Washington Football Team, and New England Patriots.
It will all come down to what the Broncos think of Stafford, the current roster, Lock, and what gives this team the best chance to compete in the offensive juggernaut that has become the AFC West.