Here we are, Lions fans. Matthew Stafford is leaving the team. It’s something that I’m sure a lot of fans hoped they’d never have to deal with. But, nevertheless, the dealing must start.
Speaking of dealing, the Lions are going to have a ton of options as to where they can send Matthew Stafford. I’ve long said that half the league would chop of one of their legs to have Stafford. Now it seems the leg chopping will begin. But the Lions should also consider chopping off a leg themselves. Yes, I realize this metaphor is getting weird.
I’m sure everyone has been following the story out in Houston. Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson wants out. There will be plenty of teams interested there as well. None of them will be willing to offer the Texans what the Lions have: another Pro Bowl quarterback.
The Lions could offer the Texans Stafford and a first-round pick or two in exchange for Deshaun Watson. In this scenario, everyone gets what they want. Matthew Stafford gets to go back to Texas, the Texans get a Pro Bowl quarterback at a discount to both build around and immediately compete plus a few picks to help the future, and Houston gets to dump Watson’s salary on one of the only teams that can now handle it.
The Lions get their centerpiece without taking the risks in the draft. That alone should be the reason for the move. Sure, the Lions would use some of their draft picks, but they aren’t getting a guy better than Watson with those picks. The Lions also get a guy that will attract free agents to Detroit and a player that’s arguably better than the one they’ve traded away.
For Watson, he gets the chance to get away from a toxic situation in Houston and work with a young and diverse staff in Detroit. This staff has preached collaboration and no egos, so you have to believe the Lions would possibly give Watson some input on things—which is exactly what the Texans failed to do. At the very least, the Lions would listen to the man when he talks.
The deal makes too much sense to ignore. The fact is the financials is the biggest factor here. While Deshaun Watson is only set to cost the receiving team $10.5 million in salary for 2021, that figure jumps to $35 million and above in the future years, well above what Stafford was set to make here. The Lions can afford to take on that contract, especially if the plan is to rebuild the rest of the team through the draft. The Texans could get some reprieve on their books by having to pay Stafford much less. It all works out pretty well.
The rub—and there’s always rub—is the Lions aren’t going to have the type of money that a team like the New York Jets will, for example. The Jets could take on Watson’s contract and have money left over to bring in top free agents on top of that. They also have the advantage of being in a bigger market. Thus giving more sponsorship possibilities and higher exposure to Watson. The Lions simply can’t compete with that.
The other problem is Watson has a no-trade clause that gives him all the leverage in trade talks. If the Texans try to send him to a place he doesn’t want to go, he can simply not waive his clause and that deal is dead. It’s quite possible, if not likely, that Watson wants nothing to do with a team who likely won’t be ready to contend for a couple years and has a history as toxic as Detroit.
And what about Matthew Stafford? If he gets a say in this, would he really want to go to another team that’s dealing with a lot of turmoil themselves? It could all be a potential powder keg like situation from the start, and I’m sure the Texans don’t want to just add another quarterback who also doesn’t want to be there.
There’s no telling what will happen in the end, but Brad Holmes needs to exhaust all options this offseason. That includes at least calling Houston to see what kind of a deal can be worked out. If he can pull this off, the Lions could be in pretty good shape moving forward. We’ll see.