Why a Matthew Stafford Trade Would Send Detroit Lions Super Bowling

Andrew McCluskeyCorrespondent IJanuary 24, 2012

Why a Matthew Stafford Trade Would Send Detroit Lions Super Bowling

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    The Detroit Lions have gone from being the joke of the NFL to one of the league's best teams in just a few years.

    They have one of the most dominant wide receivers in the league in Calvin Johnson and have some monster talent on defense that will continue to develop. They made the playoffs this year with a 10-6 record, but were outgunned by the New Orleans Saints in the first round.

    The Lions have built their offense around Matthew Stafford

    Stafford has continued to improve as a quarterback over his three-year career and peaked this year. He threw for 5,038 yards and 41 passing touchdowns this season, breaking his career highs.

    However, there are some issues with Stafford. Some issues that could be holding the Lions back from being a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

    With Stafford's value never higher, the Lions' best move may be to trade him.

    While that may seem ludicrous to some, here are seven reasons why it could be a smart move for Detroit. 

He Is Injury Prone

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    Stafford has been hurt in two of his three years.

    In 2009. he suffered a knee injury that landed him on the injured reserve after playing only 10 games. In 2010, he injured his throwing shoulder during the first game of the season against the Chicago Bears. He returned at the end of October, but re-injured it in November which resulted in him having surgery.

    Stafford played his first full season in 2011, but there is a clear pattern that has formed.

    The Lions have invested quite a bit of money in to Stafford already and if they want to get the most value out of him, they need him on the field.

    If he is as injury prone as history suggests, it may not be long before he suffers an injury that will seriously alter the course of his career. 

He Is Expensive

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    When Stafford was drafted, he signed a six-year deal for $72 million with $41.7 million guaranteed.

    On top of that, Stafford has the potential to earn more if he meets some of his incentives. With the numbers that he put up this year, I am guessing he earned himself a little extra cash this year.

    There is no denying that Stafford earned his money this year. 

    His stats tell the entire story of his season and that is the money that an elite level quarterback would earn. However, he was unable to get it done in the postseason against another elite quarterback. 

    The quarterback position is more important in today's NFL than it has even been. If Stafford isn't living up to every cent of that contract than the Lions could use to look elsewhere.

He May Have Peaked This Year

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    It is not every year that you have a quarterback throw for over 5,000 yards and 40 touchdowns.

    In fact is it is incredibly rare. There is no doubt that this has Lions fans excited, but you have to wonder if he can ever match those numbers. It was a huge leap for him statistically so you have to question whether or not this was a fluke year.

    There is no doubt that he is talented, but to expect him to put up these kind of numbers year in and year out is insane.

    Stafford may settle into being a solid quarterback or he may go on to be one of the all-time greats. However, looking at some of the all-time greats playing today like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, you can see that even they don't put up those kind of numbers every year.

    It is completely possible Stafford is this good, but I wouldn't call it likely.

His Trade Value Will Never Be Higher

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    If this was Stafford's career year then his trade value will never be higher.

    There are several quarterback-needy teams in the league right now and I am sure many of them would be willing to pay top dollar to get Stafford. Moving Stafford would give the Lions a chance to fill many of the holes they have on their roster.

    Stafford could bring in several top level draft picks or some quality players. 

    The Lions' defense has some great young talent, but they also need some serious improvement. One of their biggest weaknesses this year was their inability to slow elite passing offenses like the Saints and Packers. An improved defense would go a long way in matching up against those teams.

    No one would bring in a bigger haul than Stafford.

There Are Rookie Quarterbacks Available

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    This draft has several top level rookies available.

    Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III highlight the class. The Lions would be able to send Stafford to a team like the Colts and acquire Luck along with some other great talent.

    Both rookie quarterbacks are being scouted as sure things. While we know that it is hard to believe in "sure things," both passers have shown flashes of being elite.

    The Lions would not only be able to acquire one of these elite rookie talents, but they would be able to poach other draft picks off of the Colts. Being able to pick at the top of each round could lead to them giving their team an injection of youthful talent.

    It may seem like a backwards step, but adding more rookie talent could lead to the Lions having the best young team in the league.

There Are Free-Agent Quarterbacks Available

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    There are several serviceable free-agent quarterbacks available this offseason.

    The Lions saw first hand what future free-agent Matt Flynn can do Week 17. Flynn put up six touchdowns on the Lions' defense at the end of the season. He will be one of the hottest free agents heading into this offseason.

    If the Lions moved Stafford they could make a big push for Flynn to fill their quarterback need.

    While Flynn is unproven as a starter, he has shown above-average play every opportunity he has been given.

    The Lions could load up on defense with the haul of draft picks that Stafford would bring in and commit to Flynn as their starter. It could be a big step forward to making them a much more complete team.

    There are other serviceable quarterbacks available such as Alex Smith or Kyle Orton. The Lions could still load up elsewhere and put a stopgap quarterback in place while looking for a rookie to draft in the future. 

Calvin Johnson Doesn't Need Stafford

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    Calvin Johnson has proven that he is one of the best wide receivers in the league over his short career.

    Johnson is a physical freak with all of the qualities you look for in an elite wide receiver. He can jump through the roof and has some of the best hands in the league. Johnson is just as dangerous of a deep threat as he is in the red zone.

    Most importantly for the Lions, we've seen that he doesn't need an elite quarterback to be successful. 

    He had the best year of his career along with Stafford's breakout season, but his numbers have been elite while Stafford was injured. 

    Johnson battled his own injuries in 2009, but dominated in 2010 with 1,120 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns without Stafford on the field.

    It is clear that he is the kind of receiver that can make any quarterback better, which makes it that much easier to get rid of Matthew Stafford.