Everyone knew the Matthew Stafford question was going to eventually come for new Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes. After all, it’s the team’s most pressing situation. Stafford is arguably the team’s best player, but he’s inarguably the team’s best asset if they were to try to send him elsewhere. Considering where the Lions are at—about to pick in the top 10 of the draft for their third consecutive season—it may be time to start over with the entire roster and build anew.
Yet, we all knew Holmes was not going to give a definitive answer as he met with Detroit media virtually on Tuesday afternoon. And, indeed, Holmes gave the safe, predictable response, handing Stafford a comment while making it clear he’s taking a wait-and-see approach.
“I think the talent level is easy to see, but you really appreciate how his intangibles show on film,” Holmes said. “Just how urgent he plays, how competitive he is, the toughness that he shows, but it is my job to evaluate the entire roster. Through that process, I have not had any discussions with Matt or any players, for that matter. So I just want to be fair to the process to make sure that we evaluate that thoroughly.”
Still, that wasn’t enough for some to draw conclusions that Stafford is safe. Later in the press conference. Holmes addressed the “rebuild vs. retool” debate, and he made it clear his first job is to get this team to compete now in 2021.
“The ultimate goal is to make sure that the most competitive team is on the field, and that starts right this year, entering the 2021 season,” Holmes said. “So not viewing this as, ‘Oh this will be a long-term (project.) I don’t know how long this is going to take.’ That’s not the approach, that’s not the mindset going into it. The approach is to make sure that we can put the most competitive team possible out there on the field in 2021.”
To compete in 2021 means Stafford has to be on the roster, right?
Not so fast, my friend.
In an interview with FOX 2’s Dan Miller, Holmes opened up a little about his answer. Miller asked if it was as simple as rebuild = no Stafford, retool = keep Stafford. Holmes agreed that it was not that simple.
“I just want to evaluate the whole roster, and when you evaluate the entire roster, including the quarterback, everything is on the table,” Holmes told Miller. “If you’re really doing a true, pure evaluation process, everything is on the table. Whether it’s viewed as a rebuild or viewed as a retool, I will say that through the process, I do think that Lions fans will be happy with the product.”
The Rams under general manager Les Snead have become notorious for being significant risk-takers with some bold moves over the past few years. They traded a boat-load of picks to move up 14 spots to grab Jared Goff with the first overall pick. They traded a first-round pick to land wide receiver Brandin Cooks, and they did it again last year to acquire cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
Holmes said he’s bringing that aggressive attitude to Detroit, and there is already a report he’s told the Lions about some bold plans ahead. But, as he told Miller, they aren’t just going to be bold for the sake of being bold. Every move they made in Los Angeles and every move they make in Detroit will be part of an intricate process that starts with evaluating where the team is currently at.
“It was a very calculated approach (with the Rams),” Holmes told Miller. “It was a very sound process that we went through that equated to those bold moves. Whether it was Jared Goff or Brandin Cooks or Jalen Ramsey. Whatever one, it was knowing where our team was at that time—if we were in a window, if we were a little close or had a lot more to do—all of that played into the process. That was just having self-awareness of where you’re at as a team.”
Obviously, Holmes has to know what a disaster the defensive side of the ball is right now. Even though he publicly said he sees some young building blocks on the roster, he knows this was the worst scoring defense in the league. He knows there are also a bunch of aging players on bloated contracts. He knows, quite simply, the Lions have a ton of work to do defensively, and with just five draft picks, that may not be enough to sport a competitive team in 2021.
Will that be enough to make a bold move like trading Stafford for more roster-building resources? Time will tell, but everything appears to be on the table.