There were some mild surprises from Friday when it came to the Detroit Lions’ roster cuts. The team decided to part ways with former second-round pick Teez Tabor, while safety Andrew Adams and defensive end Mitchell Loewen also got the axe despite some good performances in the preseason and training camp.
But no move was more shocking and puzzling than when the Lions traded for Browns quarterback David Blough.
Let’s not overreact here, though, because this was a relatively minor move. The Lions swapped 2022 seventh-round picks with Cleveland, which is just about as close to a “free” trade as you can get.
But the move is still pretty puzzling. Blough will not immediately compete for the backup job, and it looked like the Lions may have already added their developmental option when they signed Luis Perez earlier in the week. So what exactly is going on here? I’ve got two theories.
Blough will be the Lions’ third quarterback on the 53-man roster
The most boring answer is also likely the most rational. The Lions haven’t traditionally kept three quarterbacks under general manager Bob Quinn, but the Lions also haven’t had a successful developmental quarterback in a long time. Blough showed some promise during Browns’ training camp, and seeing as this rookie year, he’s got plenty of room to grow.
By trading for Blough, the Lions eliminated any chance of a team with higher priority claiming him on waivers when the Browns inevitably cut him. Additionally, if they had waited to claim him on waivers, he would’ve had to go on their 53-man roster. Right now, Blough is still part of their 90-man roster. If they get buyer’s remorse, they could still cut him before the 53-man roster deadline Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.
The problem with this theory is the use of a roster spot on Blough. The Lions are dealing with a bunch of short-term injuries right now, and to use a roster spot on a third quarterback that spent the entire offseason with another team seems like a pretty big waste of resources.
That’s why I like my conspiracy theory better.
The Lions are pitching a practice squad spot to Blough
My second theory is this: The Lions traded for Blough only to cut him on Saturday. Yeah, it sounds crazy, but here’s why it may actually make sense.
Keeping a developmental quarterback on the practice squad makes the most sense. That way, he doesn’t take up a roster spot, but still practices with the team, learns the offense and can lean on other veteran quarterbacks in the room to help him develop.
If the Lions wanted Blough on the practice squad and hadn’t traded for him, they would’ve had to get lucky. Not only would Blough have to clear waivers, but the Lions would potentially have to outbid other teams for his services. A player can choose which practice squad he wants to go to, and the Lions would have to make a blind pitch.
But by trading for Blough, the Lions now have a few hours to wine and dine the rookie quarterback. Hell, Cleveland is just a few hours away, so the Lions have probably already talked to him face-to-face. From there, the Lions tell Blough all of their plans for him.
“You’re going to learn behind Matthew Stafford for a year or two. You’re going to be our primary backup for years, and if Stafford struggles or retires, you could even find a starting job here.”
Then they cut him.
And while the Lions would, again, have to await the fate of waivers, if he clears, the Lions have now put themselves a step above their competition for a practice squad signing.
It won’t look pretty. There will certainly be critics who laugh at the Lions’ front office for trading for a guy and cutting him less than 24 hours later. But there is no risk here. We don’t know where either franchise is going to be in three years, so trading 2022 seventh-round picks could actually work in the Lions’ favor.
If this plan fails at any point, bummer. The Lions are right there where they were before the trade. If it does work out, Bob Quinn suddenly looks pretty savvy.
Regardless of the reason for the trade, the important part to remember here is that there is virtually no risk either way. Blough is far from guaranteed to be part of this team this year, so let’s not freak out... even if it is in our nature.