By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots were linked to quarterback Matthew Stafford the minute it was reported the Lions were looking to trade the 2009 first-round pick. Albert Breer had them “solidly in” the conversation as recently as Saturday afternoon. However, it now appears that attraction was only one-sided.
Stafford was traded to the Los Angeles Rams late Saturday night, and now details about the trade process are starting to trickle out. According to NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran, “Stafford told the Lions they could send him anywhere but New England.” Curran says the information came from “a source whose team was heavily involved in Stafford trade negotiations but failed to land him.”
There’s a number of reasons why Stafford might not have wanted to come to New England. The one that jumps out is the current lack of skill position talent. Even with their projected $60 million in cap space, the Patriots aren’t in a position where they can truly guarantee Stafford any free agents. With only a small window left to make a run, it’s understandable why Stafford wouldn’t want to sign up for a situation where he doesn’t even know who he’ll be throwing the football.
Then there’s his former coach Matt Patricia. Patricia was fired by the Lions back in November, his third season in Detroit. Stafford, like many of the Lions’ players, reportedly had a contentious relationship with the former Patriots defensive coordinator. It was speculated he took a distorted Patriots Way philosophy into Detroit, which didn’t sit well with the roster. If Stafford believed Patricia’s Belichick impersonation is remotely close to the real Belichick experience, it would make sense for him to stay away.
Stafford’s reluctance to come to New England could also be due to the general direction (or seeming lack thereof) of the franchise. Rex Ryan said on ESPN last week, “No one wanted to go to New England to be coached by Bill Belichick, they wanted to play with Tom Brady.” Obviously Stafford and Brady would have never both played in New England, but it plays into the idea that without Brady on the roster, the shine of the Patriots organization has started to wear off in the eyes of players around the league. Unlike the previous two reasons, this one isn’t Stafford-specific, and should/would be a major concern heading into free agency.
Of course, it’s possible Stafford’s reasons for wanting to avoid New England are a combination of some or all of the above. Or maybe he just doesn’t want to play in the cold. We’ll likely never know for sure.
It’s also not clear what would have happened if the Lions had traded him to the Patriots. Multiple reports stated he wouldn’t have a say in his destination, and he doesn’t have a no-trade clause in his contract. Short of a holdout – which for a number of reasons wouldn’t make sense for a player in Stafford’s position – he wouldn’t have many options if such a deal went through. As real as the request may have been to him personally, it would have ultimately been an empty gesture has the situation played out in reality.
In the end, it’s all moot now. Stafford is a Ram, and the Patriots remain in the quarterback carousel. There’s still free agency and the draft, but the biggest splash they realistically could have had in a trade is now off the board.
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.