For the first time in forever, the Detroit Lions will not have Matthew Stafford running their offense in 2021. According to reports across the league, the quarterback and organization have mutually agreed to part ways. Stafford might not be an elite quarterback, but he’s still in that top 10-15 range. The New England Patriots should be interested in acquiring Matthew Stafford, but what will it cost to obtain his services?
And this from Detroit: pic.twitter.com/M0L46PzCw2
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 23, 2021
Should the New England Patriots Trade for Matthew Stafford?
Determining a cost for Stafford is going to be difficult, as franchise quarterbacks typically aren’t traded at this point in their careers. While it feels like Stafford has been around forever, the truth of the matter is that he’s only 32 and should have another five years in his system, assuming health. He’s more than just a stopgap option for a team that truly is just a quarterback away.
Historically speaking, the closest comparison is when the Kansas City Chiefs sent Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins for a third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller. At the time, Smith was entering his age-34 season and coming off the best year of his career. However, Stafford is a lot better than Smith (that 2017 season was an outlier, and nobody thought he could sustain that level of play moving forward), so he will cost quite a bit more than Smith.
Chances are, the Patriots would need to give up at least a first-round pick for his services. New England currently owns the 15th-overall pick in what is supposed to be a quarterback-heavy class. While they don’t stand a chance at the top trio of Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Justin Fields, there is a chance that one of Trey Lance, Kyle Trask and/or Mac Jones falls to that pick. If the Lions are in love with any one of those prospects, they might decide that the 15th overall pick is worthy compensation for Stafford’s services.
Fitting Matthew Stafford Into the New England Patriots Salary Cap
Of course, acquiring Stafford is only one part of the puzzle. New England currently has a lot of salary cap space, but they also have a lot of holes on the current roster. This team isn’t a quarterback away from competing for a Super Bowl, so Stafford might not be worth the cost if his contract actively stops the team from acquiring help at wide receiver and tight end.
Fortunately, a dive into the numbers suggests that the Patriots should be able to trade for Stafford and still have plenty of money to spend in free agency. If traded, Stafford would be on the books for $20 million in 2021 and $23 million for 2022. This is an absolute bargain for a quarterback of his caliber, and the Patriots have the cap space to make this work.
According to @PatsCap, New England currently has approximately $60 million in available spending money. This number isn’t officially set yet, but most expect the salary cap to land in the $175 million range. Trading for Stafford should leave the Patriots with roughly $40 million in available spending, and that’s without accounting for possible roster moves to increase cap space.
New England has 26 players set to hit free agency, but David Andrews and Joe Thuney are the only ones expected to earn noteworthy paydays. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that New England lets Thuney walk and re-signs Andrews for $13 million a year. This would make Andrews the third highest-paid center in the league and still allow the Patriots to have approximately $27 million to play with. If they wanted to, they’d still have the money to sign a big-name free agent or load up on depth players.
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