The Matthew Stafford-Detroit Lions marriage is coming to an amicable separation.
A person with knowledge of the situation told the Detroit Free Press on Saturday that Stafford approached the team after the season ended and suggested that a trade might be in the best interest of both parties. The team has agreed to explore a deal. The person requested anonymity because the Lions had not yet made a public announcement.
Stafford has two years and $43 million remaining on his five-year, $135 million contract signed in 2017. He is due a $10 million bonus on the fifth day of the league year in March.
Quarterback-needy teams include New England, Indianapolis, Washington and perhaps New Orleans, among others.
With the Lions set for a rebuild under a new regime after three straight last-place finishes in the NFC North, Stafford presumably is ready to move to a contender. He passed for 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions with a 96.3 QB rating in 2020 for the 5-11 Lions, playing through injury late in the season that seemed likely to bench him.
He missed the final eight games in 2019 after fracturing bones in his back for the second straight year. The Lions went 0-8 without Stafford in 2019 and finished 3-12-1.
The Lions hired Dan Campbell as head coach Wednesday and Brad Holmes as general manager last week and face an overhaul, particularly with a defense that set franchise records for ineptitude in 2020.
Detroit has the No. 7 overall pick in April’s NFL draft. After presumptive No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence, other QBs potentially in play include Ohio State’s Justin Fields, BYU’s Zach Wilson, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance and Alabama’s Mac Jones.
Stafford, who turns 33 in February, was the Lions’ No. 1 overall pick out of Georgia in 2009. With him at quarterback, the Lions made the playoffs three times in 12 seasons — 2011, 2014 and 2016 — but lost road games in the wild-card round each time. Before Stafford’s arrival, the Lions’ last playoff appearance was 1999.
The Lions have not won a playoff game since the 1991 season, losing nine consecutive postseason games, and it remains their lone postseason win since 1957. Only the Cincinnati Bengals have a longer playoff winless streak.