Saturday evening brought a swift reality check to the Detroit Lions fanbase. During the celebration of the new general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell hiring, the talk was all about how will they build around Matthew Stafford moving forward. What we didn’t know is that both Holmes and Campbell were already planning on how to build without the franchise quarterback.
In the days following the season-ending loss to the Minnesota Vikings, it was revealed that Stafford had gone to the Lions and suggested it might be best if the two moved on from each other this offseason, as he did not want to go through another rebuild and the Lions obliged. The next few weeks consisted of general manager and head coach interviews in which candidates were told about the plan, that Stafford is wanting to be moved and that was going to be the first objective upon being hired.
Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell were awarded long term deals to allow the move to be made and the roster to be completely reshaped. The next step in the process is finding a suiter for the veteran quarterback. Who are the teams that could be interested, who would be the top landing spots, and what are the fantasy impacts of Matthew Stafford moving to a new team?
The clear favorites in the running are the Colts. General Manager Chris Ballard has built up this team over the past few seasons and signed Philip Rivers last offseason as a stop-gap, while they waited for Jacob Eason to be, potentially, groomed into being the starter. With Rivers now retired and back up Jacoby Brissett hitting the free-agent market, the Colts have upwards of $60 million in cap space, which makes it very feasible to trade for Stafford and still have room to improve the team elsewhere. Stafford makes them a clear Super Bowl contender while Jacob Eason is completely unknown.
The rhetoric for Stafford has always been, “He needs a running game and a defense and an offensive line and weapons outside.” Well, if you didn’t get the chance to watch the Colts this year, they check all of those boxes. An offensive line that graded out in the top five each of the past two seasons, Jonathon Taylor and Nyheim Hines a two-headed attack out of the backfield, young talent at wide receiver and a top ten defense by all metrics.
This offense was hindered by the lack of downfield throw ability by Rivers and Stafford will have no issue with that. The main benefactor for this move would be wide receiver, Michael Pittman Jr. He dealt with an injury-plagued first half of the season, but once he was healthy, you could see the talent, Rivers just struggled to get him the football. Stafford behind a massive offensive line with Jonathan Taylor being the lead running back and Michael Pittman Jr. is the best-case scenario and is scary for the rest of the AFC.
New England Patriots
For the first time in seemingly forever, the Patriots had a down season. This would be a trade that would flip the AFC on its heels. The question is, would Stafford agree to a trade here? Just coming off a three-year stretch where “the Patriot Way” was attempted in Detroit, it’s hard to imagine him diving right back into it. However, there is a big difference between what was attempted in Detroit and what goes on in New England. If Stafford can see this, it would be a fun offense to watch.
With over $50 million in cap space, New England has the ability to land Stafford and bring in some toys for him as well. Allen Robinson is a free agent and if the Patriots could land Stafford and bring in Robinson to put on the field with budding talents such as Damien Harris, Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry the Patriots would be set up for another run at the AFC and put themselves squarely in the picture for producing multiple fantasy assets moving forward.
Washington Football Team
This has been one of the most intriguing stories of the 2020 season. Ron Rivera comes into a volatile culture, quickly turns it around into a division-winning team all while battling cancer and starting four different quarterbacks during the season and playoffs. Yes, the NFC East was a terrible division this year but to overcome all of that is something special. It’s time for some stability in this organization and that is what Stafford would bring to Washington.
The core of Antonio Gibson, Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims Jr., Logan Thomas are all emerging young talents on the offensive side of the football. With the defense led by, expected NFL defensive rookie of the year, Chase Young, counterparts Montez Sweat and Daron Payne, this team is ready to take a big leap.
Now, add the fact that the Washington Football Team hired Martin Mayhew to be the team’s general manager. Mayhew was the general manager for the Detroit Lions in 2009 and drafted Stafford first overall. A reunion would be very intriguing and would make Washington a real contender for the foreseeable future.
Outside of the Peyton Manning years, the Broncos have been futile at the quarterback position since John Elway and because of that, it has been incredibly hard to count on them being relevant for your fantasy teams. This is an absolute dream scenario for fantasy football owners. Matthew Stafford throwing the ball around to Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, Noah Fant, Melvin Gordon and another running back they acquire through free agency or the draft will create one of the more impressive offenses in the NFL.
Newly hired general manager George Patton could make a giant splash in his first months being on the job and what better way than this. He saw him up close twice a year during Patton’s 12 years as assistant general manager for the Minnesota Vikings. Stafford will stabilize the position and start off Patton’s tenure on the right foot. It will come down to if he is willing to part with the assets necessary to make this happen and make such a bold move right out of the gate.
My prediction is that Matthew Stafford will end up on the Colts. They have too much cap space, the assets to give and know that with Stafford, they are legitimate Super Bowl contenders immediately. They will pay what it takes to get this trade completed. The timeline on a Matthew Stafford trade revolves around a roster bonus on his contract. If he is still on the Detroit Lions on the fifth day of the league year, March 17th, he will be owed a $10 million bonus. Surely, if the two sides are committed to getting a trade done, it will be done no later than March 16th, so that the Lions can avoid paying that bonus.
The clock is ticking.