On Saturday, it was the beginning of the end for the Matthew Stafford era in Detroit.
According to the Detroit Free Press, the Lions quarterback informed the team about his desire to be traded. The organization agreed to explore potential trade suitors.
Stafford currently has two years and $43 million left on his five-year, $135 million contract that he signed in 2017. A trade could come before March 17. Stafford is currently due a $10 million bonus on the fifth day of the 2021 league year, which is currently scheduled to begin on the aforementioned date.
FanDuel Sportsbook has already posted the odds for Stafford’s next destination, but those in Michigan will not be able to wager on where Stafford may end up. The sports betting market for Stafford’s future team is only available for bettors in Colorado.
Here’s a rundown of the teams that could land Stafford, according to FanDuel. He's also +500 to remain with the Lions.
There’s a reason the Colts are the initial favorites to land Stafford.
With Phillip Rivers’ retirement, the team is a quarterback away from being a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Stafford would be an immediate upgrade over Jacoby Brissett and has better arm strength than Rivers showed.
Stafford would also be joining a team expected to compete right away. The Colts had the seventh-best offensive line last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Indianapolis also features a top 10 defense, which is something Stafford had only once in his career with Detroit (2014).
Indianapolis also has the second-most cap space in the league at $68 million. The Colts could fit in Stafford’s contract and re-sign free agents such as T.Y. Hilton and Justin Houston, in addition to adding a free-agent wide receiver.
Cam Newton was bad this past season for the Patriots. In his first year in New England, Newton averaged just 177 yards passing per game and had eight interceptions to 10 touchdowns, finishing with an 82.9 quarterback rating.
It wasn’t entirely his fault. The Patriots lack explosive playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, so any deal for Stafford would still require upgrading at key spots such as wide receiver.
The Patriots have the 15th pick in this upcoming draft, so it's possible they could make a package for Stafford or simply use the draft spot to continue to rebuild at other vital positions.
Injuries decimated the 49ers roster last season, including at quarterback. San Francisco started three quarterbacks last season as the defending NFC champion looked like a shell of itself with the roster overhaul.
The 49ers’ dynamic offensive personnel makes this an alluring spot for Stafford. George Kittle may be the best tight end in the league, while Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel have showcased explosive playmaking abilities at the wide receiver position. Add in head coach Kyle Shannahan’s offensive expertise and it’s easy to envision this offense taking off with Stafford.
If San Francisco does make a move for Stafford, the team would have to cut or trade Jimmy Garoppolo to free up $23.4 million in cap space to make room for Stafford’s contract.
Despite the Miami Herald reporting multiple Dolphins players aren’t sold on current quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the organization apparently is. On Saturday, Miami hired Charlie Frye as the team’s new quarterback coach. Frye was one of the assistants who worked with Tagovailoa during an Elite 11 high school quarterback camp.
Tagovailoa has also received the backing from coach Brian Flores and general manager Chris Grier amid recent reports criticizing Tagovailoa. Given the messages and moves, a trade for Stafford seems unlikely.
The Teddy Bridgewater signing has not panned out for the Panthers. Bridgewater was benched in Week 17, and his status as the team’s quarterback going forward has been questioned this offseason.
Since Week 10, Bridgewater completed just 62.9% of his passes, averaged 236 yards per game and threw four interceptions compared to just two touchdowns. His passer rating over the final five games was just 78.8.
New general manager Scott Fitterer put everyone on notice, including Bridgewater at his introductory press conference, saying, “We’ll be in on every deal.”
This offseason, Washington head coach Ron Rivera told reporters, “The quarterback is the most important thing we have to get done going forward.” With Washington active suitors for a new quarterback, Stafford could become a possibility. The team’s $35 million in cap space would allow it to add Stafford, especially if Alex Smith retires or Washington decides to cut him.
Adding Stafford would strengthen Washington’s bid to repeat as NFC East champions. There’s also a front office connection. Washington general manager Martin Mayhew held the same position in Detroit when the Lions drafted Stafford No. 1 in 2009.
Drew Brees’ impending retirement adds the Saints to the list, but the team’s cap space issues will likely keep Stafford from heading to New Orleans. According to Spotrac, the Saints have the worst salary cap situation for 2021, currently $106.17 million below the salary cap. Plenty of restructuring would have to go into the roster’s finances in order for Stafford to be seriously considered.
At No. 2, the Jets could select their next quarterback of the future in Ohio State’s Justin Fields or BYU’s Zach Wilson. Or, if the team elects to keep Sam Darnold, it could add the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith.
If the Jets do decide to make a trade package for a franchise quarterback, it will likely be for Houston’s Deshaun Watson. It’s reported Watson prefers to play for the Jets, and given Watson is seven years younger than Stafford, a play for Watson makes more sense.
Considering the Jaguars are -5000 to draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Jacksonville is the longest of long shots here for a reason.