Lions QB Matthew Stafford talks Jim Bob Cooter's future, trade talk
Matthew Stafford doesn't want to go anywhere.
While one NFL insider predicted to ESPN that the Detroit Lions will trade their veteran quarterback this offseason, Stafford reiterated Thursday that he hopes to finish his career in Detroit.
"I think there’s something special about a guy getting a chance to play his entire career in one place," Stafford said. "Not many guys get to do that these days. Would love to be one of those guys. That’s all I got."
Stafford said he did not see an ESPN.com story this week in which people across the league made bold predictions for 2019.
One of those predictions was that the Lions will deal Stafford this offseason and start anew at quarterback after their disappointing year.
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Asked if he'd welcome a trade, Stafford, who's played 10 seasons with the Lions, said, "Don’t think about it too much. Haven’t seen it. Don’t think about it. I’m preparing to play the Green Bay Packers. That’s about it."
The Lions signed Stafford to a five-year, $135 million extension in August 2017 and would essentially be acknowledging that deal was a mistake if they were to cut bait with their franchise leader in nearly every passing category with four years left on the deal.
Stafford has a $29.5 million cap hit for 2019, and the Lions would take a $30 million cap hit to trade him and have to pay his replacement.
The team also could keep Stafford, take a quarterback early in the draft — they're in line for the No. 5 overall pick — and try to deal him at a later date.
Stafford said he'd like to finish his career with the Lions — if it's up to him.
"It’s not," he said. "But I would for sure, like I just said, I would love to be able to be one of those guys that played in the same place whole career."
While odds are good that Stafford remains in Detroit in 2019, this has been one of the most disappointing seasons of his career.
Barring a huge game in Sunday's season finale against the Green Bay Packers, Stafford will finish with fewer than 4,000 yards passing for the first time since 2010. He currently has 19 touchdown passes against 15 turnovers and is averaging just 6.7 yards per attempt for a 5-10 team guaranteed to finish in last place in the NFC North.
"We just haven’t made as many big plays," Stafford said. "I think that’s a big part of it. Just haven’t done a good enough job executing in the passing game for me. I can always play better and can find ways to be better for sure."
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If Stafford is back next season, he's bound to be surrounded by a new supporting cast.
The Lions need to sign at least one wide receiver this offseason after trading Golden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles, their top two tight ends are unrestricted free agents, right guard T.J. Lang's future is in doubt because of injuries and the team could part ways with offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.
Stafford made public and private pleas for the Lions to keep Cooter last winter, when the team hired Matt Patricia as head coach.
But he was less explicit with his desires when asked about Cooter's future Thursday.
"I’ve always enjoyed working with Jim Bob," Stafford said. "I think he’s a smart coach. I’ve had a lot of success under him. We’ve scored a bunch of points and done a lot of really good things under him."
Stafford declined to say what he would tell Patricia if Patricia sought his input on the move.
"He hasn’t asked me," he said.
But he indicated he will share his feelings on what the team needs for a turnaround with ownership or management if he's asked after the season.
"I think for me, I’m a player, just like everybody else in this locker room," Stafford said. "Obviously, I’ve been with this team for a long time, seen a lot of people come in and out. Probably have some unique perspective on some things. But at the same time, those guys' jobs are solely to do those kind of things and my job is to score touchdowns and get our offense in the end zone so that’s what I’ll focus on."
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