News broke on January 23rd that the Detroit Lions and their longtime starting quarterback Matthew Stafford would be parting ways. The team announced that they would be exploring trade offers for the 12-year veteran. Among the teams that may take interest in a Matthew Stafford trade or may even make a Matthew Stafford trade, sits the Denver Broncos. The current quarterback situation in Denver is very up in the air. Drew Lock, the former 2nd-round draft pick out of Missouri, is still young and trying to prove his worth for the Broncos. The team’s new General Manager George Paton has mentioned that every position needs competition and that Denver would most likely bring in a veteran quarterback to compete with Lock for the starting role. Could this veteran be Matthew Stafford? What would that mean for Lock? What are some possible trade options for Stafford? Is Stafford really worth it? These are some questions that Denver will be thinking about this offseason.
Overview of Matthew Stafford’s career thus far, as well as his fit with Denver
Drafted in 2009 by the Detroit Lions with the 1st overall pick, Matthew Stafford has had some notable moments and impressive statistics throughout his career. Regarded as an underrated quarterback, Stafford has only been voted to one Pro Bowl in his career and has 45,109 career passing yards. Similar to Drew Lock, Stafford got off to a slow start in his career. In his rookie year, he had 7 more interceptions than he did touchdowns and had the 4th worst quarterback rating among starters. Stafford has only made it to the playoffs three times in his career and has been a first round exit in all three appearances. The Lions have never had a great team around Stafford. Over the course of his career, he has only had one extremely notable weapon to throw to, the great Calvin Johnson. It’s hard to be as skilled as someone like Patrick Mahomes when you don’t have teammates like Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Sammy Watkins to throw to.
The Broncos definitely have some dangerous weapons for Stafford to throw to if he were to join the team. Courtland Sutton, a one-time Pro-Bowler and one-time 1,000-yard receiver, is currently the primary target for Denver. In the 2020 NFL Draft, the Broncos brought in Jerry Jeudy from Alabama, K.J. Hamler from Penn State, and Tyrie Cleveland from Florida. The Broncos also have wide receiver Tim Patrick, who proved his worth in the 2020 NFL season when he put up 742 receiving yards and 6 receiving touchdowns. At the tight end spot, the Broncos have the solid Noah Fant as well as a 4th-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Albert Okwuegbunam. To summarize Denver’s receiving unit: it is very talented and very young.
It may just be the right one to bring Matthew Stafford deep into the playoffs.
Upsides and Downsides
The Denver Broncos are a team that is regarded by some as “one quarterback away from a Super Bowl.” This is, in my opinion, untrue, but bringing in an elite veteran quarterback would definitely contribute to a possible Super Bowl run. Stafford’s gameplay is a huge upside to the Denver Broncos. His decision making is off the charts, his accuracy is very solid, and his interceptions have been kept to a low number in recent years. Stafford hasn’t had a year with more than 10 interceptions since 2015, he hasn’t had a year with less than 19 passing touchdowns since his 2010 injury-shortened season, and he hasn’t had a season with less than a 60% completion percentage since 2013. To sum it all up, he’s been playing great football the past few years. It would be stupid to say that he wouldn’t make a difference for the Denver Broncos.
There are definitely some downsides to bringing in a guy like Stafford. The money owed to Stafford definitely takes the award for biggest concern of bringing him to Denver. We’re talking multiple-year deal with an aging veteran quarterback trying to make it deep into the playoffs. We would have to give up a lot of money and most likely sacrifice some other players. That is something a lot of Broncos fans do not want the team to do. The second downside that should be mentioned is his age. Stafford is 33 years old this February and will likely be exiting his prime in the very near future. The risk with acquiring Stafford is that his prime could end soon and then you have traded a lot for a quarterback that is no longer able to provide quality play. His age brings up the third concern, which is injury. Stafford is coming off of a concerning injury in 2019 and has had season-ending injuries in the past. He’s getting older and older, which means that he is only becoming more fragile. One big hit and his career could be over. Denver does not want to have to deal with that constant fear. It limits teams when they have to worry about keeping their players away from injury over winning games. This situation would be a high risk-high reward one for the Broncos; The only question is, would George Paton take the risk?
What would this mean for Drew Lock?
Drew Lock has not been playing the best football that he is capable of. With Lock still needing to grow and develop, it would be great to bring in a veteran quarterback to compete for the starting job. Although, if they brought in Stafford, it would be obvious who would get the starting role. Lock would essentially have three options in the event that Matthew Stafford becomes Denver Bronco.
He could sit on the bench for two to three years learning behind Stafford and developing more and more until he reaches a point where he can start after Stafford leaves. He could be included in the trade to acquire Matthew Stafford which means he would be sent off to Detroit to be the starting quarterback replacement for the Lions. Lastly, he could be included in a trade to a different team in which Denver will try to get a draft pick or add depth to another position. Teams that are in need of a quarterback include the Patriots, 49ers, Colts, Washington Football Team, Jets, Panthers, and Falcons. So, a trade to any of those teams in the hypothetical situation of Stafford joining Denver would not be unlikely.
My personal opinion is that if Denver is to bring in Stafford, they bring him in on a 2-year deal. Then, they keep Lock and let him learn from Stafford until his deal is up. By then, Lock will have everything he needs and will have the football knowledge to be the starting quarterback that we know he can be. Lock’s future is uncertain at the moment, so only time will tell what’s in store for the former 2nd-round pick.
Potential Trade Packages
The Lions are seeking a trade for Matthew Stafford in which they most likely want player value and draft capital. A 1st or 2nd round pick would be vital in a trade for Stafford. The Lions biggest positional needs would wide receiver, linebacker, cornerback, and quarterback, without Stafford. Four potential trade candidates from Denver are Tim Patrick, Alexander Johnson, A.J. Bouye, or Drew Lock.
Wide receiver Tim Patrick is young and talented, but is buried in the Broncos depth chart. He would make a great fit for the rebuilding Detroit Lions. The Lions desperately need a good linebacker and with the scarcity of high quality linebackers in the draft, Alexander Johnson would be excellent player value in a trade. Although he is 30 years old, he would be a great mentor and would be the rock on the Lions defense. It is already unlikely that cornerback A.J. Bouye will return to Denver in 2021, so why not include him in a trade for a quarterback? Drew Lock’s availability in a trade is undecided but there is definitely a chance that he gets included if Denver goes for Stafford. Here are some potential deals that I have put together:
Potential Deal #1 – DEN Receives: QB Matthew Stafford, 2021 6th-round pick; DET Receives: QB Drew Lock, 2022 1st-round pick, 2021 4th-round pick, 2021 7th-round pick
Potential Deal #2 – DEN Receives: QB Matthew Stafford, 2022 7th-round pick; DET Receives: LB Alexander Johnson, 2022 2nd-round pick, 2021 3rd-round pick, 2022 5th-round pick
Potential Deal #3 – DEN Receives: QB Matthew Stafford, 2022 6th-round pick; DET Receives: WR Tim Patrick, CB A.J. Bouye, 2021 3rd-round pick
Is Stafford worth it?
There are two ways to look at this: what you are receiving or what you are giving. You can either play it safe or take the risk. Matthew Stafford is a huge risk for many reasons, but in the end, my opinion is that it isn’t worth it.