The deal that sent Matt Stafford to the Rams rocked the NFL on Saturday night.
And now, for a localized aftershock: Stafford told the Lions they could send him anywhere but New England.
This comes from a source whose team was heavily involved in Stafford trade negotiations but failed to land him. Stafford, of course, is a Ram after Los Angeles sent a huge haul to Detroit for the one-time Pro Bowler.
With a load of cap space and a yawning void at the position, the Patriots figured to be frontrunners for Stafford along with teams like the Colts.
But Stafford apparently nixed the notion of being the guy that replaces the guy that failed to replace THE GUY.
That Stafford would be cool to the Patriots is something we spitballed about once it was reported he was on the trading block.
Stafford will be 33. The Patriots are rebuilding. They have no tight ends or wide receivers to get enthused about playing with. They play outdoors in nasty Northeast weather and for Stafford, who’s played indoors his entire career, the prospect of playing the majority of his games outdoors and in crap weather probably wasn’t enticing.
It’s well-documented that one of the main reasons for the Patriots 20-year run of success is they are committed to out-conditioning, out-preparing and out-seriousing every other team in the league. “No Days Off!” may sound like a neat slogan. For a prospective employee with a wife, kids and more money than they’ll know what to do with? He’d probably like some days off.
There are enough former Patriots in Detroit who would have been able to advise Stafford on the vibe here. Also, Stafford just lived through the Matt Patricia Era in Detroit. The former Patriots defensive coordinator ran a .500 franchise under Jim Caldwell onto the rocks in less than three seasons. Patricia has rejoined the Patriots staff this offseason. Probably not a selling point.
Stafford’s personal preferences aside, the news underscores the difficulty the Patriots may have attracting players when free agency begins on March 17.
For literally decades the Patriots were a preferred destination because a trip to the AFC Championship Game was virtually guaranteed and a Super Bowl was quite possible. The team’s prospects for success and the chance to play alongside Tom Brady and for Bill Belichick -- two legends -- made up for long hours and a little less in the paycheck.
Now, New England will have to work a little harder and pay a little more than it has to convince players to come aboard.
It’s a dynamic that has to especially be taken into account with quarterbacks. Whoever comes next will see Cam Newton’s 2020 struggles, the skill position depth chart and the giant shoes left by Tom Brady.
A few may feel the same as Stafford and say, “Yeah, that’s not for me.”