Reports surfaced on Saturday night that the Detroit Lions and quarterback Matthew Stafford had mutually agreed to part ways. The former first-overall pick's tenure with the team will end after 12 years and a franchise-record of 45,109 passing yards and 282 touchdown passes. With Stafford only turning 33 years old in February and boasting a wide array of talents, he will likely have a robust trade market, but who will send picks to the Lions in exchange for him?
Several teams will require a quarterback before the 2021 season. One has to deal with the sudden retirement of its starter while another is operating under the assumption that a franchise legend will walk away at some point in the offseason. Other teams just struggled to find success with the existing options and could explore a future with Stafford under center. Here are seven teams that could pursue the former Georgia Bulldogs standout.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots struggled mightily on offense due to several reasons. There were injuries on the offense, as well as positive COVID-19 tests. Cam Newton only passed for 8 touchdowns but added another 12 on the ground. Newton will be a free agent when the new league year begins after signing a one-year contract to bring him to Foxborough. He remains an option for Josh McDaniels' offensive system, but coach Bill Belichick could opt to bring in a quarterback similar to the departed Tom Brady, at least in a physical sense. However, the Patriots would need to bolster the receiving corps.prevnext
The Chicago Bears stunned the fans in January by announcing that head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace would retain their jobs for 2021. This news caught many by surprise, given that quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles both struggled during an inconsistent season. Their play led to many fans proclaiming that the Bears should acquire Deshaun Watson in a blockbuster trade.
Several teams would reportedly pursue Watson if the Texans opted to trade him away, including Dolphins and Jets. The Bears may not match any trade packages offered by the AFC East teams and could swing a deal for Stafford after watching him find success against them. However, the Lions may not be willing to send the veteran to a rival team.prevnext
The Indianapolis Colts found themselves without a starting quarterback recently when veteran Philip Rivers announced that he is retiring from the NFL. His departure leaves the team without a proven starter, considering that Jacoby Brissett is also set to be a free agent. Now the Colts could turn to Stafford to lead the way.
The Colts could serve as an ideal destination for Stafford due to the pieces already in place. The offensive line is sturdy; there are two talented running backs ready to perform and several wide receivers and tight ends capable of producing. Additionally, the defense is already better than what Stafford played with during his time in Detroit, providing a group capable of keeping games close.prevnext
New Orleans Saints
When the Saints and Buccaneers faced off during the NFC Divisional round, there were rumors about quarterback Drew Brees. FOX Sports' Jay Glazer reported that the longtime starter would retire at the end of the season. Brees fueled the rumors by turning around and looking back at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with a pained expression on his face after losing to Tom Brady and his team.
If Brees leaves as expected, the Saints will only have Taysom Hill as a starting option for the 2021 season. He has been more of a gadget player during his career, contributing to special teams and as a runner and receiver. The Saints could opt to make Hill the full-time starter in 2021, or they could swing a deal to bring Stafford to the Bayou. Head coach Sean Payton and his offenses found considerable success during the earlier portions of Brees' career while using the quarterback's big arm and talented receivers. Having Stafford on the roster would allow Payton to use this system once again.prevnext
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers reached Super Bowl LIV with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo under center but lost to the Kansas City Chiefs. Since this game, there have been questions about the former Patriots' backup and his future in the Bay Area. Garoppolo has struggled to remain healthy in his 49ers' tenure and has only played one full season in four years. This statistic includes only six games played in 2020.
Stafford is older than Garoppolo, but he has exhibited a history of remaining healthy during his 12-year career. However, he missed time during the first two seasons of his career and in 2019. When healthy, Stafford has produced while partnering with talented receivers and running a play-action system. Head coach Kyle Shanahan used this system to great success as the offensive coordinator in Atlanta. He has helped his rotation of quarterbacks produce in San Francisco.prevnext
Washington Football Team
The Washington Football Team reached the playoffs in 2020 despite dealing with several injuries at the quarterback position. Head coach Ron Rivera put together a talented group of players and minimized distractions. Now he will face raised expectations for 2021. The team could move forward with Alex Smith as the starter once again or land a big-armed quarterback in Stafford.
To make the situation more interesting, the Football Team recently hired Martin Mayhew to become the team's new general manager. He was previously the GM of the Lions from 2009-2015, a stretch of time in which Stafford led the Lions to the playoffs two separate times. The two men could reconnect and attempt to lead the Football Team back to the playoffs.prevnext
The Carolina Panthers entered the 2020 season with a new head coach in Matt Rhule and a new starting quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. There is a belief that the Panthers could use the former Louisville star as the quarterback once again. Still, new GM Scott Fitterer remained noncommittal about him during an introductory press conference. However, Fitterer turned heads by saying that a franchise quarterback is "someone who can win when the game is on the line" in the fourth quarter.
Given his 38 game-winning drives during his career and 31 fourth-quarter comebacks, Stafford meets these requirements. These statistics put him in a tie for eighth all-time in game-winning drives and seventh in fourth-quarter comebacks. Stafford could potentially provide a boost to the offense and help lead the Panthers to a division crown.prev