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When Matthew Stafford asked the Detroit Lions for a trade this offseason, the organization gave him the right to have input on his destination. It’s a freedom that will shape the course of the 2021 NFL season because Stafford used it to his advantage.
As soon as the star quarterback hit the trade block, a number of teams reached out. The Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts immediately inquired about Stafford. But one team quickly emerged as the favorite and seemingly was on the verge of acquiring him.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Carolina Panthers reportedly neared a deal for Stafford when they left the Senior Bowl. After prolonged negotiations, many in the league believed team owner David Tepper would land his franchise quarterback.
That’s when Stafford stepped in, using the ability to influence his destination to improve his landing spot. The Pro Bowl quarterback consulted with his family and determined they wanted to move to Los Angeles and Stafford wanted to play for the Rams.
Los Angeles eventually landed their new quarterback, trading Jared Goff and a pair of first-round picks to Detroit. If Stafford approved the other deal, Carolina would have reportedly centered a deal around the No. 8 pick and Teddy Bridgewater.
- Matthew Stafford stats (2020): 4,084 passing yards, 96.3 passer rating, 26 passing touchdowns, 7.7 ypa
The deciding factor in Stafford’s decision was likely a trip to Cabo. ESPN’s Seth Wickersham detailed how the 33-year-old took a trip to Cabo San Lucas, running into Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth. That led to a meeting with McVay and hours of conversation resulted in the trade.
A vacation immediately shaped the entire NFL offseason. If the Panthers landed Stafford, Detroit is making back-to-back picks in the 2021 NFL Draft and likely drafts both Penei Sewell and a quarterback for the future. Meanwhile, the Rams are forced to explore lesser alternatives and Darnold might not have a starting job.
Instead, the Rams have a quarterback who they believe can win NFL MVP and lead them to a Super Bowl. Meanwhile, the Lions and Panthers both have long-term uncertainty at the position.