What would the price tag be if the New York Jets inquired about Matthew Stafford? Would Detroit be willing to part with him?
When looking at the options for the future of the quarterback position for the New York Jets, one player keeps coming to mind. He plays for an organization like the Jets, who torture their fans with inconsistency and falling on their face when they looked poised to accomplish something. That player is Matthew Stafford and that team is the Detroit Lions.
What other options could the Jets possibly have at finding their franchise quarterback to take snaps behind center in 2018? Kirk Cousins is an option, but the price tag could be too high for a quarterback that still has many questions.
Looking at the possibility of trading for Stafford, the first thing I considered is why the Lions would think trading a franchise quarterback in the prime of his career would make sense for them.
When the former Georgia Bulldog was drafted by the Detroit Lions with the first-overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft, they envisioned him leading them to division titles and Super Bowls. Despite achieving personal success, Stafford has been unable to lead them to a playoff victory, going 0-3 in his three postseason appearances. Detroit has also been unable to win a division title with Stafford at the helm. The Lions best chance to do so was last season when they had a two-game lead with three games left. Unfortunately for Detroit, Stafford suffered an injury to his right hand in Week 14 and the Lions lost their final three games and the division title to Green Bay.
How much have Lions made their fans suffer? In the history of their franchise they have never won double-digit games in consecutive seasons (they started playing games in 1930 as the Portsmouth Spartans). They have won just three division titles since the NFL-AFL merger (only the Jets have won fewer). They have not won a playoff game since January 1992, which is their only playoff win since winning the 1957 NFL Championship Game. They currently own a nine-game postseason losing streak, the longest in NFL history.
So what makes Stafford so valuable and why would the Jets view him as a better option than drafting a quarterback? While Detroit has not achieved the type of success they had hoped for yet, he has put together many exceptional seasons passing the football.
Entering this season, Stafford averaged 278.0 passing yards per game through his first eight seasons, which was the most for quarterbacks in their first eight seasons in NFL history. He threw for 5,000 yards in 2011, becoming one of just five quarterbacks in NFL history to do so. Starting in 2011, Stafford has thrown for at least 4,000 yards in each of his six seasons, one of only four quarterbacks in NFL history to do so. He has also been a clutch quarterback, as entering this season his 26 game-winning drives in fourth quarter/OT since 2011 were the most in the NFL over that span.
Stafford has continued his success this season with the Lions, needing just less than 700 yards in his last four games to reach 4,000 yards for the seventh straight season. He has also thrown 22 TD to just seven interceptions, but Detroit has still struggled this season, sitting at .500 through 12 games.
The other thing to consider in the Jets trading for Stafford is could they afford him – both in terms of finances and what Detroit would ask for back.
Detroit signed Stafford to a five-year, $135 million contract, making him the highest paid player in NFL history. He also is in the prime of his career at age 29 (he will be 30 on February 7). The cost of bringing him to the Jets would be big.
The Jets are one of the few teams who would have the salary cap space to cover Stafford’s contract. By my estimates, they should have between $79-to-$90 million in available cap space.
However, Detroit hasn’t won with him as of yet, and in a year when franchise quarterbacks should be available, a major question would be if the Jets secured a draft pick high enough to entice the Lions to come to the table.
Many experts and fans were expecting this season to be bad enough to position the New York Jets to draft a franchise quarterback in the 2018 NFL draft. However, right now the Jets would be outside the top 10 in draft position, making the chance to draft a franchise quarterback less likely. The only good news on that front is the Jets final four games are against three teams that are in or tied for first place.
On the surface, a trade of this magnitude seems unlikely, but if the Jets are able to give up, say first round picks in the next two drafts, would that be too much to obtain a certified franchise quarterback? Despite giving up multiple first round picks, the Jets could concentrate on building the rest of their roster. Again, who knows if that would be enough to entice the Lions, but it would have to be at least something like that to get them interested.
Along with giving up a few draft picks, the Jets would have to be willing to part with a valuable player. I would have a list of untouchables – Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Leonard Williams, Darron Lee and Robby Anderson.
Muhammad Wilkerson is an intriguing name to me that Detroit might consider, as he is a few years younger than Stafford and might lower the cost of draft choices. Perhaps instead of two number one picks, the Jets could part with a first and fourth round pick, along with Wilkerson. However, that depends largely on the production and attitude of Wilkerson.
Once again Wilkerson was disciplined on Sunday for arriving late to a team meeting. This marks the third straight season he has done that. As far as production, he has definitely picked up his performance as the season has progressed. After collecting just 11 tackles and no sacks in his first seven games this season, he has totaled two-and-a-half sacks and 12 tackles in his last five games. He is almost back to the way he was producing at his best during the 2015 season.
Who knows what will happen during the offseason as the New York Jets consider their options at how to secure a franchise quarterback, but looking in the direction of Matthew Stafford wouldn’t be the craziest idea.