Welcome back, to Part 2 of the Detroit Lions mailbag, addressing all you coaching, draft and free agency questions. Make sure to go back and read the first batch of questions from Part 1.
► Question. What do you think about Lions taking Tua at No. 3 and then taking defense with the rest of the picks? — @B_Lake007
► Answer. I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it: I don't see the Lions drafting Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
It's not that I don't think Tagovailoa can't be an top-flight NFL quarterback. Injury issues aside, he's displayed elite accuracy and footwork during his three years with the Crimson Tide. But selecting a quarterback is incongruent with the win-now mantra placed upon coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn.
Quinn has said he'll continue to pursue short- and long-term goals when constructing a roster this offseason, but taking a quarterback of the future is an entirely different level of long-term thinking, especially when it robs you of the ability to add an instant impact player in the first round of the draft.
If the Lions had made a regime change, or we were certain the current brass had more than a year to turn it around, I could get behind the idea that Tagovailoa was in play for the Lions, but applying logic, it's unrealistic.
► Q. Do you think 8-8 brings Quinn/Patricia back for another year? — @spleen95shortbr
► A. It's really about how the team came to 8-8. If the Lions were 6-8 going into the final two weeks of the season, probably not. But if they were 8-6 and Stafford got hurt in the first quarter of that 15th game and they lost 17-16 on a Hail Mary, well, that's an entirely different conversation.
Speaking in generalities, I don't believe a return to .500 is enough to justify sticking with the status quo, but there are always shades of gray when you consider all the possibilities.
► Q. Bart Scott mentioned the Patriots should trade for Stafford. What would a trade like that look like in terms of compensation? — @SniffinGrits
► A. This strikes me as fan fiction, at least heading into 2020, but who knows how differently things will look in a year.
So what would it cost for New England to acquire Stafford after this season, to serve as Tom Brady's replacement? I'd like to start with the assumption that Stafford returns to full health and plays all 16 games, performing at least at career-average levels.
As for the contract, if would be well under market value for the production and talent, with caps hits of $20 million in 2021 and $23 million in 2022.
Stafford easily would command more than the fourth-round pick the Ravens got for Joe Flacco last year, and probably more than the third-rounder and cornerback Kendall Fuller that Alex Smith netted Kansas City two years ago.
Jimmy Garoppolo scored New England a second-round pick from San Francisco in 2017, and even though there's a significant age difference, that's probably the starting point of conversations. That was a high second, so it would be reasonable for the Lions to ask for New England's first, which typically comes near the end of the round. And if the Patriots balked, a second- and a third-round pick also could work.
Trading for Stafford would provide the Patriots hope to keep their dynasty afloat post-Brady, so surrendering picks wouldn't be out of the question. Remember, this is a team that gave up a second-round choice to acquire wide receiver Mohamed Sanu this season.
► Q. I neither want nor expect the Lions to go with offense in the first round, but hypothetically, let’s say the team trades back and find themselves with Andrew Thomas. Would you expect Thomas to play right tackle, or try him and left tackle and have Taylor Decker switch sides? — @apendygraft
► A. Speculating, but I'd lean toward Thomas going to right tackle as a rookie. Going back to the combine when he came out, Decker stated a preference for playing on the left side. Plus, Thomas does have some experience playing on the right, starting every game at the spot as a freshman.
Given the increasing quality of left-side pass rushers in the NFL, the value of a right tackle isn't far behind the blindside these days. Additionally, Thomas' power would work well on the right side, which is the strong side for many of the league's ground games, but a weakness in Detroit in 2019.
► Q. Beside drafting Kenny Golladay, what has Bob Quinn done to inspire confidence in his being able to put together a highly competitive roster? — @iconsilk713
► A. Inspiring confidence is a relative conversation. Given how close the Lions were in the majority of their games this season, you could easily make an argument they're already "highly competitive," they're just not able to get over the hump, which we noted in the first part of the mailbag, probably says more about coaching.
As for what else Quinn has accomplished, particularly via the draft, he's added a bunch of solid, but not spectacular pieces in the first two rounds, with only one clear bust in eight selections. In the third round, beyond Golladay, he's gotten excellent value in Graham Glasgow and Tracy Walker. And in the later rounds, Joe Dahl, Jamal Agnew and Da'Shawn Hand have all performed better than their draft slots.
What you're not seeing is star power, at least beyond Golladay. That's problematic. I don't know if that's because Quinn has been too conservative in the early rounds or the coaching staff is doing a poor job of developing talent.
Regardless, the entire operation, from acquisition to development, hasn't been close to good enough. And that's why we are where we are, with a win-or-pack-your-bags mandate for the upcoming season.
► Q. Who is the best young player in Detroit sports and why is it Sekou Doumbouya? — @J_Lawnicki
► A. Doumbouya-mania is understandably taking over as local fans look for any bright spot to latch onto in these dark days for the four pro franchises. He's certainly exciting, and that dunk over Tristan Thompson was something else.
At 19 years old, there's so much room for growth, but you can see the All-Star potential if the development goes well.
Other young, exciting talent in the pipe include Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Filip Zadina and Anthony Mantha. As for the Lions, the group is thin, led by Golladay, Trey Flowers and Tracy Walker. Maybe Kerryon Johnson and T.J. Hockenson.
► Q. Which veterans are most likely to be cut? Devon Kennard? Jesse James? Rick Wagner? All three? — @sawallnews
► A. Call it a personal preference when it comes to offering my opinion, but I've never liked speculating about which players are going to be cut. That said, I have no issue laying out the facts regarding player contracts, particularly with those who are under-performing, setting the table for some difficult decisions the organization will face during the offseason.
As for the three names you mention, I don't think Kennard and James are in the conversation. With the tight end, it would actually be a bigger cap hit to cut him than keep him. And Kennard's $7.2 million cap hit, (and potential $5.4 million cap savings) isn't outlandish for what he brings to the table, especially when you factor the leadership intangibles.
Wagner, on the other hand, is one of those difficult decisions. Even though he pulled it together down the stretch, at least prior to being sidelined the final three games with a knee injury, the overall body of work was disappointing in 2019. The right tackle is set to carry a lofty $11.9 million cap hit in 2020, and by cutting him, the team could clear a little more than $6 million off the books.
The risk here is the replacement plan. You're either banking on Tyrell Crosby, who has been OK in limited action, spending big money in free agency like you did with Wagner a few years back, or going with a rookie, which is always a risk.
Another veteran decision might be made easier if defensive tackle Damon Harrison opts for retirement. There's no question he didn't live up to exceptions in his second season in Detroit, and moving on would clear $6.7 million in space.
The only other realistic options for the Lions to clear significant cap space via cuts are with wide receiver Marvin Jones ($6.5 million), Decker ($10.35 million), kicker Matt Prater ($3 million) and defensive end Romeo Okwara ($2.1 million). Those all seem unlikely.
► Q. I'm on the BPA (best player available) train, and if we suck next season, there's always Trevor Lawrence. Do you think this is realistic enough or do you think this front office will be so shortsighted that they'd trade up for Chase? — @RedneckLionsFan
► A. As much as the Lions are desperate for a pass rush, I don't see them trading up for Chase Young unless Washington is offering an unexpected bargain. And that strikes me as highly unlikely. After all, Washington generated pass-rush pressure at the same anemic rate as Detroit in 2019, according to data tracked by Football Outsiders.
As for banking on Trevor Lawrence next year, it's unreasonable to bank on landing the No. 1 pick, where the Clemson quarterback is expected to go in the 2021 draft. Look at the Dolphins this past year. Management did everything they could to tank, trading away a number of key pieces before and during the season, and the team still went 5-4 in the second half of the season.
► Q. If you’re the Bengals, are you sure you're ready to completely give up on Andy Dalton? — @scottysittser
► A. Yes. The clearest proof is the team benched Dalton in the middle of this season in favor of fourth-round draft pick Ryan Finley.
Nothing against Dalton. He's been a serviceable starting quarterback in this league for years, posting passing numbers not all that dissimilar to Matthew Stafford over the past nine seasons.
But at 32 years old, with zero dead money remaining on his current contract, the Bengals have an opportunity to move on and get one of the better quarterback prospects in the past decade in Joe Burrow, who reminded me a bit of Andrew Luck in the handful of games I got to watch this year.
Plus, as the No. 1 pick, Burrow will have a cap hit that will average under $10 million per season over the next four years, with a team option for a fifth season. It's a no-brainer.
► Q. Is there any good reason not to trade down in the draft and get multiple extra picks? — @pgdumon
► A. Sure, with the biggest being the compensation packages being offered aren't worth the drop down the board. Personally, I'd strongly consider sending the No. 3 to the Dolphins for as little as the No. 5 and the team's second-round pick. That's below historical value for such a swap, but another top-40 pick should be able to contribute immediately.
That said, I could see Detroit turning down such an offer. And if all teams are only offering are a couple of third-round picks or later, it's probably not worth it. The chances of successfully hitting that late in the draft drop significantly.
► Q. Any chance the Lions will have a game in Japan near future? — @daisuke_110
► A. I'm all in on the idea of an NFL game in Japan, but I think the massive time difference makes this a significant challenge. Tokyo is 14 hours ahead of Detroit, compared to a five-hour difference with London, where the majority of the league's international games are played.
Games in Japan aren't unprecedented, but they've only taken place during the preseason. The last time the NFL held a game across the Pacific, it was in 2005 at the Tokyo Dome, when the Colts played the Falcons as part of the American Bowl series.
► Q. What's your current bourbon of choice? — @Michael_Stets
► A. Finally, an important question.
I think I've mentioned this before, but I really love barrel/cask-strength bourbons, and while there are plenty better outside my budget as a journalist, at my price point, I really enjoy Stagg Jr.
Also, a friend just picked me up a rare bottle of 12-year Evan Williams from Kentucky. So I've got that going for me.