After firing the general manager and team president, the Detroit Lions have some serious decisions to make about their head coach, quarterback and future of the franchise. In fact, it’s certainly within the realm of possibilities that the Lions could trade Stafford this offseason.
“Oh, sure,” CBS NFL insider Jason La Canfora said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I mean, it’s going to come down to the finances there as well. They’ve spent a lot of money there. They’ve had some big, big contracts and the biggest problems for the Lions is the end of the real run of absolute abject futility was at the end of the old CBA. So they were stuck with all these sort of bonus-baby dinosaur contracts that don’t equate to the new CBA but they’re sitting there with Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh all pretty much making the biggest money of anyone in their draft classes, and then those old rookie contracts being transferred into a new system that’s very different. So I think that has handcuffed him. And I think ownership is looking at that and saying, ‘Well, jeez, we had all those guys and we couldn’t win a playoff game. We got to the playoffs a couple times – once with Caldwell, one with Schwartz – but didn’t win anything. Maybe we need to go in a very different direction, which would include us getting rid of maybe one more of those contracts.’”
Stafford, 27, is owed roughly $16 million with a salary-cap hit of $22.5 million next season, while Johnson, 30, is owed $17 million with a salary-cap hit of $24 million.
“Calvin would be tougher to trade just for cap reasons and a lot of other stuff,” La Canfora said. “But Stafford’s reached a point in his contract where a) they’re probably gong to be picking in the top five and be positioned to get any quarterback they want who will cost them $5 million a year versus $17 million a year; b) I don’t know how many kids are going to be in this draft, but there’s going to be at least a quarterback of the league that needs a quarterback. They always do, and there will be significant interest in Stafford; and c) Stafford’s contract, the guaranteed money is up. It’s only an $11 million dead cap if you trade him. He’d probably be willing to even restructure that with a new team to get additional years, and any team that trades for him would probably want to have him for two more years. So yeah, I would expect us to be talking an awful lot about this at the combine unless the next general manager comes in and says, ‘You know what? We’re not going to do any better than Matt Stafford and he’s not the problem.’ So we’ll have to wait and see how this plays out.”
Several teams around the NFL, though, were frustrated that the Lions decided to clean house when they did. In other words, right after the trade deadline.
“Look, I had teams calling me when this went down yesterday saying, ‘What the hell, dude?’” La Canfora shared. “‘If they were going to do this, why didn’t they fire those guys two weeks ago? We would have been calling asking about Matt Stafford. If we knew they were either close to doing something like this, even if they hadn’t called us, we would have called them and said, Wait a minute, you just fired your GM. Are you going in a different direction? Because we’d be willing to take Stafford now.’”