As the 49ers assess the future of their quarterback position, one new name has popped up: Matthew Stafford.
The longtime Detroit Lions quarterback could be looking for a new home, or the Lions simply might try to get younger at the position this offseason. The 49ers are in the same boat with incumbent QB Jimmy Garoppolo.
The Lions fired coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn on Saturday. The new regime in Detroit very well could bring in a new QB and start a new chapter.
So, what about Stafford to the 49ers? One coach believes that would be a match made in heaven for Stafford and coach Kyle Shanahan.
“They would win a Super Bowl,” an offensive coach said to The Athletic's Mike Sando. “Stafford would be in a real organization finally. He would bend to Shanahan and that offense because there is such a history of success with that system.
"And Stafford would know he’s not going to get hit in the head all the time like in Detroit.”
Stafford, 32, has completed 63.2 percent of his passes this season. He has 2,876 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 11 games this season. The former No. 1 overall draft pick also has a 92.7 quarterback rating and 61.5 QBR.
The Lions locked Stafford up to a five-year, $135 million contract in August 2017. Detroit technically has an out from Stafford's contract after the 2020 season, but it would be a costly one. If the Lions release Stafford after the season, it cost them $24.85 million in dead cap. The same goes for if they trade him, and that would be the most in NFL history.
But the Lions actually would be saving money if they move on from Stafford. They would not owe Stafford his more than $40 million in base salary and roster bonuses the next two seasons.
Would the 49ers be willing to take that on?
The 49ers have their own long list of free agents set to hit the open market this season. The real question is, would the 49ers view Stafford as an upgrade over Garoppolo or a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft?
San Francisco, when healthy, has the talent to win a Super Bowl. And that's even with all the players they could lose to free agency. Garoppolo is three years younger than Stafford and has his own contract situation the 49ers need to sort out. He also led the 49ers to the Super Bowl last season, and was minutes away from winning it all. Shanahan has said he expects Garoppolo to be his starting QB in 2021, but he also has seen his shortcomings.
Stafford isn't highly efficient, and never has been. What he has that Garoppolo seems to lack, however, is the ability to stretch the field with his right arm. While dumping the ball to Deebo Samuel and letting him be a beast is fun, imagine a quarterback who can hit Brandon Aiyuk in stride down the sidelines. Stafford's arm strength would be an upgrade right away.
The 49ers might not be in position to draft one of the top three or four quarterbacks next year in the draft. But they might be ready to move on from Garoppolo. That puts them in a tough position. Is Stafford the answer?
We'll see just how much Shanahan and general manager John Lynch really believe in Jimmy G if a veteran like Stafford becomes available this offseason.