The Lions have said they aren’t interested in trading Matthew Stafford, and they proved it twice. First they signed a career NFL backup, Chase Daniel, as a free agent in March, and then they did not select Tua Tagovailoa – or any other quarterback – in the NFL Draft in April.
Stafford’s contract situation, however, gives the Lions a decent amount of flexibility should they change their minds about who should be behind center, according to analysis by ESPN.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano ranked NFL teams based on how financially committed they were to their presumed starting quarterbacks for 2020.
“We look at how much more money is guaranteed, when non-guaranteed money becomes guaranteed, how much it would cost to cut or trade the player after this season, after next season and more,” Graziano explains.
Graziano placed Stafford and the Lions in the “prove-it time” category and ranked the Lions 27th in their financial commitment to Stafford, who signed a five-year, $135 million extension in August 2017, with $60.5 million guaranteed.
“The Lions are paying Stafford $15 million this year and nothing is guaranteed after that,” Graziano says. “In fact, as of the restructure Stafford did in December, $7.2 million of that $15 million is now an option bonus tied to a 2023 option on his contract, and the Lions have until the day before their first game of the 2020 regular season to decide whether to exercise it. If they don't exercise it, that $7.2 million gets added to his 2020 salary, so he gets the $15 million either way. … What's odd is the date on the option bonus. Since the Lions don't have to decide on it until the day before their season starts, they could trade Stafford before then, and the acquiring team would be the one paying the option bonus and the salary.”
Graziano adds: “Even if he does play the entire 2020 season for them, the Lions can get out of his deal next offseason with a $19 million dead-money charge and no more guaranteed salary owed.”
No. 1 on ESPN’s list is the Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff, who signed a four-year, $134 million extension in September 2019. Pulling up the rear is the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Gardner Minshew, who signed a four-year, $2.712 million contract in May 2019.