INDIANAPOLIS – On paper, it seems too good to be true.
The Colts are in desperate need for a starting quarterback in 2021.
Matthew Stafford, who turns 33 next month, is fed up with his time in Detroit, and the Lions are being a good partner by seeking out trades for the veteran quarterback.
First the Colts would seem to be an ideal destination for Stafford—given the support from the ground game and defense, along with an aggressively focused head coach/play caller with strong history in having quarterbacks excel. Those are things Stafford has really never had in his decade long-run in Detroit. Some would point to Stafford’s 0-3 playoff resume as not having enough around him for January success.
Of course, the Lions would also benefit by moving Stafford out of the NFC and getting the most draft capital in return.
What Stafford would bring the Colts is a potential talent they didn’t have at quarterback last year.
Sure, Philip Rivers’ mental acumen and quick rhythm accuracy gave the Colts something missing from the passing game in 2019.
But Stafford’s big arm and propensity for making plays late in games would potentially bring something more.
And Frank Reich knows it.
“He has elite arm talent,” Reich said of Stafford back in November, when the Colts were preparing to face the Lions.
“He’s one of those handful of guys, that you say, ‘There’s guys that have a really good arm and then there’s guys that have elite arm strength and arm talent.’ He’s one of those guys. He’s fun to watch. He makes big plays.”
Specifically, Reich pointed to this final-minute throw that Stafford threw the game before playing the Colts in 2020.
With the Lions down 22-16 and the clock stopped at 19 second remaining, Detroit still needed to cover 40 yards with zero timeouts remaining.
That’s when Stafford rifled one over the middle, through several Falcons defenders, into the chest of a surprised Kenny Golladay for 29 yards. Following a spike, Stafford then found tight end T.J. Hockenson with two seconds left for the game-winning touchdown.
“I don’t know if there’s too many guys in the league that can make the throw that he made to set up that touchdown pass,” Reich said.
“He has a knack at the end of games to make a play.”
Stafford certainly does, with his 31 fourth-quarter comebacks ranking 7th in NFL history.
The names above him on that list? Peyton, Brady, Brees, Unitas, Roethlisberger, Marino.
With varying arm angles, the ability to make some plays with his legs and a nice blend of above average accuracy and vertical aggressiveness, Stafford could certainly flourish in Indianapolis.
Over the last handful of seasons, Stafford has hovered around 65 percent completion, a yards per attempt number of 7.5 and an interception number of less than 2 percent. Those are all intriguing numbers to what the Colts desire from the most important position in sports.
Stafford has battled several injuries over the last two years (he missed 8 games in 2019), but he’s also started all 16 games in 9 of the last 10 seasons. His toughness has long been lauded.
Financially, Stafford is under contract for two more seasons, with yearly cash hits of $20 million and $23 million coming up. For a QB of Stafford’s level, that’s extremely reasonable.
Of course, getting Stafford isn’t simply going to happen by a snap of the fingers.
The Lions are going to have suitors and Chris Ballard will likely have to enter some sort of bidding war to get the most prized/realistic QB available this offseason.
-Would the Colts giving up the No. 21 overall pick plus a third rounder be enough?
-Will the Lions be solely focused on finding the highest bidder for Stafford?
-Would Ballard get into some biding war?
Make no mistake, the Colts do not carry much leverage into this quarterback dilemma.
Hitting on a long-term solution in the draft would be a dream, but the odds of that occurring, with the Colts picking No. 21 overall, aren’t great.
Given that, pursuing Stafford is something that has to be done, unless Ballard has a draft trade situation locked and ready.