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DETROIT, MICHIGAN - NOVEMBER 26: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions calls a play at the line during the first half against the Houston Texans at Ford Field on November 26, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com

The Patriots search for their next quarterback just got a whole lot more interesting. While the draft had been the most discussed path to finding a new QB, now a premier trade target is reportedly being made available.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Detroit Lions and Matthew Stafford have mutually agreed to part ways. The Lions’ first overall pick in the 2009 draft, Stafford has started 16 games in eight of the last nine seasons for Detroit.

Last season, Stafford threw for 4,084 yards – with an average of 7.7 yards per attempt. It was his seventh consecutive season of 4,000-plus yards, the fifth-longest streak in NFL history. He paired 26 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. Very careful with the football, Stafford hasn’t thrown more than 11 interceptions in a season since 2015.

What will make this situation so interesting is that there’s really no precedent for a veteran franchise quarterback being traded, especially in the middle of a multi-year deal. Stafford turns 33 on Super Bowl Sunday, and has two years remaining on his contract. Any team that deals for him will have to be able to absorb his $33 million cap hit in 2021, then a $26 million in 2022, or rework his contract.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – DECEMBER 06: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions attempts a pass against the Chicago Bears during the first half at Soldier Field on December 06, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

So on one hand, Stafford is a certified franchise quarterback. Those guys rarely become available, even if it’s seemed so over the last two years. On the other hand, he’s entering the twilight of his career, and carries a significant financial burden.

Is a mid-first round pick enough? Too much? Those will be the questions that Patriots fans will be asking in the coming weeks. What Stafford wants will also factor in. How favorably will the view the Patriots, a team that is not only rebuilding their skill positions but also just hired a coach in Matt Patricia he reportedly spent the last three years at odds with?

Schefter’s report states that the Lions will begin taking offers for Stafford “starting this week.” Given the cap and roster implications of a Stafford move, the Lions and any potential trade partner would likely want to sort things out as soon as possible, to allow for time to adjust their free agency and draft strategies. Expect news on the Stafford front to move quickly leading up to the Super Bowl.

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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.