The New England Patriots made a shocking move early on Wednesday, when Ian Rapoport reported the team will release their fourth-round pick from 2014, center Bryan Stork.
Stork quickly earned the starting job in his rookie year, playing 11 games as the team’s primary center. A concussion landed him on the PUP list in 2015, but as soon as he returned, he reclaimed the starting position. 2016 was different, however. The Patriots added undrafted free agent David Andrews in 2015, and the two entered a fierce camp battle this offseason. It now appears Andrews has been claimed the victor.
So what will happen with Stork? By most measures, his play has not been a big problem. Although ESPN listed Stork as a starter who should be upgraded (Insider required), our friends over at Pats Pulpit thought he played well last season. So should the Detroit Lions take a look at him?
The case for claiming Stork
The Lions are having some issues on the offensive line right now; that much is clear. Detroit also apparently doesn’t have much faith in current starter Travis Swanson, seeing as they drafted Graham Glasgow in the third round this year. Therefore, it would make a lot of sense for the Lions to ditch Swanson (via cut or a trade, if possible) and plug in Stork while continuing to let Glasgow develop on the sidelines.
Of course, the giant elephant in the room is Bob Quinn. The former Patriots executive is likely very familiar with Stork, sharing the same workplace for the last two years. He should know exactly what Stork is capable of, and if he was happy with what he saw, he’ll likely put in a claim for the 25-year-old.
Stork would immediately upgrade the starting position, give the Lions some insurance in case Glasgow doesn’t work out and also, maybe most importantly, give the team depth along every position on the offensive line.
Via Pats Pulpit:
Andrews is the expected starter, while Stork can back-up every position on the line (at various levels of success).
Additionally, Stork would come at a cheap price. Still on his rookie contract, Stork only brings a cap hit of $719,250 and $809,250 in the next two years of his contract, according to Over The Cap.
So make the move, Quinn. This almost makes too much sense, right? Hold on a second.
The case for not claiming Stork
Let’s start off with the biggest of concerns: injuries. Stork not only suffered a concussion that kept him out of six games in 2015, but he has already suffered another this offseason. Concussions are the kind of injury that you cannot take too lightly. By most accounts, suffering from one concussion makes you more prone to another. We saw it end the career of Jahvid Best, and with a position like center, the contact is never going to stop. Stork could potentially be out of the league by the end of this season.
Additionally, Stork doesn’t appear to have the kind of personality that would mesh well with head coach Jim Caldwell. According to The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe, Stork has been thrown out of practice twice during camp for fighting. He incited a fight during a joint practice with the Chicago Bears. This is nothing new for Stork:
This has become a pattern for Stork, who was flagged for unnecessary roughness when he head-butted Broncos defensive lineman Vance Walker during the AFC Championship Game loss in January. The first-down penalty put the Pats in a hole they couldn’t escape, as they ultimately went three-and-out while trailing 7-0 in the opening quarter.
Though the Lions’ reputation with “good character” players took a hit last week when they signed tight end Andrew Quarless, they’d be taking a risk on a player with a pattern of this kind of behavior with Stork.
Finally, this kind of move would cloud the situation with rookie Glasgow. The Lions clearly have a plan at long-term at center with Glasgow the presumed heir to the position. However, if the Lions signed Stork, they would already be hedging on that bet before they even gave Glasgow a chance to compete. Having depth at the position obviously isn’t a problem, but it’s a move that could potentially stunt Glasgow’s development, rending Quinn’s first third-round pick a complete waste.
Then there’s the Bears
If you think the Lions’ center conundrum is bad, look at the Chicago Bears. Chicago just lost their premier starter Hroniss Grasu for the season with an ACL tear. The move has forced the team to consider moving second-round pick Cody Whitehair to the center position, even though he had spent all offseason as a guard. Chicago also has veteran Ted Larsen to play center, but Larsen, too, is better suited as a guard. He hasn’t played at center since 2013.
Chicago has a higher waiver priority than the Lions and are in much greater need of a center than Detroit is. Given Chicago’s desperation and the cheap cost of Stork, I find it highly unlikely the Lions end up with a new center on their roster. And to be honest, it’s probably for the best. Detroit already has a plan at center, and while it may be a rough go in the first few months, there’s no good reason to diverge from the plan just because a risky player comes along.
UPDATE: Ian Rapoport is reporting the Patriots are not releasing stork after all. Rather, he has been traded to Washington.
Wow. #Patriots didn’t cut C Bryan Stork after all… they traded him to the #Redskins, source said. That was unexpected.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 24, 2016
The #Patriots traded C Bryan Stork to the #Redskins in exchange for a conditional draft pick, source said. Deal being worked out now.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 24, 2016