Why the Lions won't trade Matthew Stafford despite rumors suggesting they will

Sporting News

A local news station in Detroit, WDIV-TV, released a report Wednesday night citing sources claiming "that trade talks concerning quarterback Matthew Stafford have been underway for a couple of weeks."

The report lacks substance; it simply says the sources are "close to the Detroit Lions." It also came the same day Stafford's wife, Kelly, shared a pair of stories on her Instagram account that suggested the Lions would trade their longtime quarterback.

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There was nothing really to spark those stories that Kelly Stafford shared. The only report suggesting a Stafford trade is the one from WDIV.

In fact, Thursday morning the Detroit Free Press asked Lions GM Bob Quinn about the rumors and he responded, via text, "100% False!!" But general managers aren't exactly trustworthy all the time, so you can only buy into that somewhat.

The real reason why the Lions won't trade Stafford has to do with a decision the team made in December. The Lions turned a $6 million roster bonus that was originally due in March and converted it into a signing bonus. This means the Lions would suffer a $32 million hit in dead salary cap with a Stafford trade.

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In other words, it would cost Detroit $10.7 million for the 2020 season to trade or release Stafford when it could just keep him on the roster and not waste money. It just makes no sense to move Stafford until next year.

Having said that, there's still a chance Detroit selects a quarterback in the NFL Draft. The Lions hold the No. 3 overall pick, meaning the obvious selection would likely be Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. It would be a great fit, too, as Tagovailoa's agent, Leigh Steinberg, told the Detroit Free Press in late January his client would be best suited on a team where he could sit for a year.

"It takes the right personality in the existing quarterback to bring along the next young quarterback, but if you look at Aaron Rodgers, Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers, none of them started the first year and my wish for Tua would be that he would go to a team that would give him a year to learn the system and do everything before the pressure of being a starting quarterback was upon him," Steinberg said.

So the speculation that if Detroit selects Tagovailoa third overall then it has to trade Stafford just doesn't hold up. It would make more sense to keep Stafford in 2020 and have Tagovailoa learn for a year as his backup, or potentially play if Stafford's back injury lingers.

But trading Stafford this season just doesn't make sense for Detroit, and it likely won't happen.

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