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Lions Roundtable: What does Detroit’s formal interview with Kyler Murray mean?

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Sitting down for an interview with one of the most intriguing and enigmatic prospects available in this April’s draft means something, right?

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

First things first, if you’re unfamiliar with our roundtable or how it works, check out our archive and some of our most recent discussions from this season:

Fittingly enough, our last roundtable discussion centered on the fate of Matthew Stafford as the team’s quarterback. Trade rumors swirled courtesy of Peter King trying to rectify the Jacksonville Jaguars’ desperate need for someone other than Blake Bortles, but Bob Quinn publicly backed his quarterback at the start of 2019, and that could have been the end of any further discourse on the state of signal caller in Detroit.

But the NFL Combine—and Peter King—happened.

5. Murray met with 10 teams in Indianapolis, but I wouldn’t read a lot into that. The usual suspects were among the 10 teams—Arizona, Oakland, the Giants, Jacksonville, Miami and Washington. But he also met with Detroit, Seattle and the Chargers. Detroit. Hmmm. Seattle: probably just fact-finding. I’m not sure of the 10th team. But as I said, don’t read too much into that.

While King wouldn’t read a lot into Murray interviewing with these teams, everyone else will—including us.

What does Detroit’s formal interview with Kyler Murray mean?

Ryan Mathews: When I heard the news Detroit had met with Murray, I thought nothing more of it than a team, with a draft pick in the top 10, doing what should be done, no matter what cliché you want to tag to it. Bob Quinn and Co. are doing their homework, feigning interest, setting up a smokescreen, whatever. There’s as close to a zero chance the Lions draft Murray at No. 8 to be their quarterback as numerically possible.

Now, D.K. Metcalf on the other hand...

Jeremy Reisman: Yeah, I’m not buying anything here. I get that when you combine this news with the quote from Bob Quinn at the season ticket holder event (“If there’s a quarterback out there that we deem could help us this year or in the future, we’ll never close the door on that”) it sure sounds like drafting Murray is a possibility.

But the smokescreen is in full effect here. Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia couldn’t have been more clear in their praise, respect and unwavering support for Matthew Stafford in the past year. Now, suddenly, they’re putting on the face of a team potentially looking for a quarterback in the first? Give me a break. They obviously benefit from looking like a team that wants a quarterback, so kudos to them for going the whole nine yards here.

Hamza Baccouche: WHAT’S UP, GANG. Everybody grab your pitchforks, the takes are coming in hot today.

Short term: I don’t think there’s much to take away, but I’m going to go on a hunch here and think this means the Lions are much more interested in taking a quarterback in the draft than we may realize. There isn’t a lot of top-tier talent, but lots of guys stuffed in the fourth- to fifth-round talent tier and I think the Lions may grab someone there, earlier than expected. I would especially expect that should the Lions trade back and accumulate lots of Day 2-3 picks in one of the deeper drafts in recent memory. I’m personally a big fan of Easton Stick and would love to see him in Detroit.

Long term: This is Bob Quinn and Galaxy Brain (Matt Patricia) playing the long game. Meet with Kyler, who the Lions would never draft, this year, that way next year when the Lions are moving on from Stafford and they meet with every top quarterback in the draft next year they can fool nobody by saying they’re ‘just doing due diligence.’

Then, at his combine press conference, someone asks about the Lions’ commitment to Stafford, Bob Quinn assures them he’s their quarterback, and just like that he is given the kiss of death.

Not 48 hours later, Twitter explodes as news breaks that the Lions have dealt Stafford and two firsts to the Denver Broncos for the second overall pick and a Von Miller who has just come off a down season and doesn’t fit in the Broncos’ Joe Flacco- and Case Keenum-stuffed salary cap. They draft Tua Tagovailoa and ride off into the sunset on a Ford F-150 with Martha Ford in the back.

I’m done.

Jeremy: Someone is starting the Spring Break drinking a little early. How are they going to trade Stafford after his 2019 MVP Award-winning season?

Ryan: Okay, so as far as turns I didn’t expect this to take, I did not foresee Von Miller becoming a part of the Lions defense in 2020 as a result of the team meeting with Kyler Murray this weekend. Congratulations, Hamza, you’re intergalactic with your brain.

Hamza: Thank you good sir. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Jeremy: Okay, it’s worth noting that it’s not like the only motive here is subterfuge. NFL teams get 60 of these formal interviews at the Combine, meaning they can meet with almost one-fifth of the players at the event. Why not get to know a top-10 prospect a little better? It can give you a better idea of when he may get taken, and it could even be a little early scouting in case a team Detroit plays in 2019 ends up taking him.

Andrew Kato: From a game theoretic perspective, I believe what Jeremy is saying here is the most likely interpretation. The Lions are sitting in a relatively high draft position with high stakes. As such, they need to know as much as possible about the players who may be taken ahead of Detroit because that tells them a lot about the players who will be available when their selection comes up. Murray is regarded as a potential first-round pick but has all kinds of question marks around his status.

Bob Quinn and his staff need to know the answers to the questions even if they are not interested in drafting Murray because they need to know how other teams will view Murray. The best way to obtain that information is to meet with him yourself and put him through the motions that you know those other teams would. This is not the same as feigning interest or even doing due diligence on potential prospects to select, but would be part of a more holistic draft strategy that has to consider the entire board.