The Lions hope to trade quarterback Matthew Stafford. The clock is ticking on their efforts to work out a deal.
The league year commences on March 17. If Stafford remains on the roster as of March 21, the Lions owe Stafford a $10 million roster bonus.
Stafford surely won’t agree to delay that payment in order to facilitate a trade. If the Lions don’t have a viable offer for Stafford by the launch of the new league year, the Lions may have to take the best they can get to avoid owing him $10 million.
Detroit’s dilemma when it comes to maximizing Stafford’s trade value comes from the fact that it has made clear its willingness to trade him. Some teams may decide to be coy, hopeful that Detroit’s expectations will soften to the point that Stafford can be snagged for a lot less than the Lions hope to get for him.
The fact that only a third of the league has called the Lions about Stafford even though it’s now known that the Lions want to trade Stafford supports the perception/reality that teams are waiting to get involved, in the hopes of making the Lions think they won’t get what they want before March 21, and that they simply may have to take what they can get.
As one league source explained it on Thursday, teams constantly call other teams about a wide variety of players, even those who aren’t under contract. Far more than 10 teams should have called the Lions about Stafford by now; it’s entirely possible that teams will slow play the situation in an effort to get the Lions to pounce on much less than they’d otherwise be able to get, if other teams thought there was a chance the Lions would keep him.
That said, it doesn’t take many teams to spark an auction for Stafford’s contract. If only two teams become intent on landing Stafford, they can bid the price to a level with which the Lions will be satisfied.
Regardless, once the window opens for officially conducting trades, the Lions don’t have much time to get it done before the Lions owe Stafford another $10 million.