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Peter King: Lions Should Trade Stafford To Jaguars In Offseason For Two Draft Picks

It's simply not feasible.

November 27, 2018 - 6:33 pm
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Let's start here: Peter King, NFL Analyst for NBC Sports, is a noted fan of Matthew Stafford. He said at the outset of this season that Stafford is one of the NFL's top 10 quarterbacks. And he may well believe that still. 

But after nine seasons, soon to be 10, without a playoff win, he thinks it's time for the Lions to cut their losses and trade Stafford for picks. King's breaking point came in Detroit's defeat to the Bears on Thanksgiving when Stafford threw two interceptions on his team's final two drives to gift Chicago the game.

"I’m a little tired of hearing how great Stafford is, and how he’d be so much better with an offensive line and a supporting cast, and how formidable he’d be with a running game," King wrote in his Football Morning in America column on Monday. "... This likely will be the 27th straight season without a playoff victory for the Lions, and Stafford was drafted to end it. Nothing doing so far."

The solution, in King's mind, is to send Stafford to the quarterback-needy Jaguars for a first-round pick and a fourth-round pick.

Whether or not that's a fair haul for Stafford is beside the point. The problem with King's scenario is that it seems to discount the financial mess it would create for the Lions. If they were to trade Stafford this spring, they would face an immediate $30 million cap hit, as recently detailed by Dave Birkett of the Free Press. That's more than it would cost to keep him. 

It's part of the fine print in the five-year, $135 million contract the Lions gave Stafford last year. Via the Free Press: 

"For those who don’t remember, Stafford’s mega deal included a $50 million signing bonus that was paid out in three installments, the final $16.5 million of which was deposited into Stafford’s bank account in February.

"In the NFL, signing bonuses are prorated over the life of the deal for salary-cap purposes, so while Stafford already has been paid all $50 million, not all of that money has been accounted for on the Lions’ salary cap.

"Last year, the bonus counted $10 million against the cap. This year, it counts another $10 million against the cap. And it will once again in 2019-2021.

"If a player is cut or traded, the remaining bonus prorations from his contract accelerate into the current year’s salary cap. In Stafford’s case, if the Lions wanted to trade their quarterback and undergo a total rebuild in the spring, they would face an immediate $30 million hit to their cap." 

"Stafford right now counts $29.5 million against the Lions’ 2019 cap, so by keeping him, the team would devote less cap space to him than if he was playing for another team." 

And, no, cutting Stafford isn't a viable option either. That would result in $49 million in dead money in 2019. 

Fact is, there's no realistic scenario where Lions part ways with Stafford, at least not in the next couple years. He is their quarterback now and he will be their quarterback in the future. That's what the team committed to when it locked him up through 2022 at an annual cost of $27 million. 

Smart move? That's open for debate. But it's a decision they must live with, like it or not.