Allen Park — Citing anonymous sources, a local television station reported Wednesday evening that the Detroit Lions have been engaged in trade talks involving Matthew Stafford for weeks. But the team's general manager, Bob Quinn, quickly refuted the report, texting "100% false" when asked about the accuracy of the information.
WDIV sports director Bernie Smilovitz first reported the information and Kelly Stafford, the quarterback's wife, appeared to validate the rumblings on social media.
On her Instagram story, Kelly Stafford posted a screenshot of a opinion piece from the gambling website FanDuel, predicting three possible trade destinations for her husband, including the Los Angeles Chargers. She wrote, "Well if Detroit is done with us... I could stay in Cali."
It's worth noting, the Stafford family is close with WDIV investigative reporter Hank Winchester, who regularly appears in photos and videos on Kelly's Instagram feed.
The possibility of trading Stafford isn't a new topic. It has been discussed by national media and fans for a few years, but has picked up steam this offseason after the quarterback finished this past season on injured reserve and the team holds the No. 3 pick in the draft.
But there are several reasons the idea logically falls short.
First and foremost, jobs are on the line for Quinn and coach Matt Patricia. After posting a disappointing 3-13-1 record last season, ownership made rare public comments, setting expectations for immediate improvement.
"We expect to be a playoff contender and those are our expectations, which we’ve expressed to both Bob and to Matt," owner Martha Ford said in December.
And prior to being shelved by a back injury last season, Stafford had been posting some of the best numbers of his career. Pulling the plug and starting over is not congruent with contending for a playoff spot.
Additionally, at the end of last season, the Lions restructured Stafford's contract, converting a portion of his 2020 salary into a signing bonus that significantly lowered his cap hit for next season, while increasing the financial obligations to part ways with the passer.
As it currently stands, Stafford is scheduled to carry a $21.3 million cap hit in 2020. But by cutting or trading him, that cap hit jumps to $32 million because of dead money tied to his signing and restructure bonuses.
Yes, you're reading that right. It would cost more than $10 million extra in cap space for Stafford to play somewhere else next season.
Finally, there's too much uncertainty when discussing a replacement plan at this stage of the offseason. If the Lions were to jettison Stafford in a trade, the easy assumption is Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa would be the target. By all accounts, he's one of the best quarterback prospects in the past decade.
But there are still too many balls in the air with Tagovailoa's status. First and foremost, there are lingering medical concerns that won't be answered until the scouting combine later this month. Initial reports are last year's hip injury are healing well, but no team is going to commit the future of their franchise to a player without their own medical evaluations.
Secondly, if the medical information is good, there's no guarantee Tagovailoa will be available to the Lions at No. 3. Several other teams, including the Miami Dolphins, the aforementioned Chargers and the Carolina Panthers figure to be equally interested in the quarterback and have the ammunition to offer Washington a sweetheart package of draft picks for the No. 2.
Again, going back to the need to contend immediately, the Lions can't afford to give up additional draft equity to secure Tagovailoa's services. That scenario could leave the Lions to choose between Oregon's Justin Herbert and Utah State's Jordan Love as Stafford's replacement.
Despite all those hurdles, and Quinn's direct denial, rumors about Stafford's future will likely persist until the team makes its first-round selection in April's draft. And, if a deal never comes to fruition, we can probably plan to have these same conversations next year.
At least then it would financially make sense. Stafford's 2021 cap hit is $33 million and trading him would save the franchise $14 million.
Stafford, 32, has spent 11 seasons in Detroit, after the Lions selected him No. 1 overall in the 2009 NFL Draft.