Multiple Saturday evening reports are now surfacing that the Detroit Lions will begin the process of attempting to trade away veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford in the next several weeks. The Lions dealing Stafford by March 17 is also very plausible and certainly makes a lot of sense as well with them now having a new general manager and head coach. On top of that, it sounds like Stafford is ready for a fresh start with just a few years likely remaining in his NFL career.
In an effort to get way out in front of people wondering if the Pittsburgh Steelers will or should trade for Stafford, I figured I would indulge many of you on this Saturday with the overall plausibility and economics related to the Steelers trading for Stafford.
For starters, the Steelers aren’t going to trade for Stafford with Roethlisberger still on the roster. So, any serious pursuit of Stafford would start with Roethlisberger either retiring or being cut and soon at that. Remember, Roethlisberger is due a $15 million roster bonus right after the start of the new league year in March in addition to a $4 million base salary. Him retiring or being cut very soon would result in the Steelers clearing $19 million in 2021 salary cap space.
So, assuming you have made this far in this post and assuming you think Roethlisberger’s time will soon be up in Pittsburgh, here is what the Steelers would need to do next to acquire Stafford and make him fit economically.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN on Saturday, the Lions are reportedly looking to get a first-round draft pick in exchange for Stafford. It obviously would make sense that they want a 2021 first-round selection at that. So, there’s likely what the Steelers would need to give up to get Stafford, their 24th overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft.
So, assuming the Steelers made it that far along in the process, they still would have work to do after acquiring Stafford from the Lions via a trade. After all, Stafford is set to earn $20 million in total in 2021 with $10 million of that being due to him on March 17, the start of the new league year. The Steelers simply can’t just trade for a $20 million cap hit after just saving $19 million on Roethlisberger.
After acquiring Stafford from the Lions, the Steelers would immediately need to do a contract restructure on the veteran quarterback and that means he would need to sign off on it as well. Such a restructure, if agreed to by both parties, would likely include all $10 million of Stafford’s 2021 roster bonus he’s due, all his $500,000 2021 workout bonus he’s due, plus all but $1.075 million of the $9.5 million base salary he’s due being turned into a signing bonus. Such a restructure, if done just as outlined, would result in Stafford’s 2021 post-trade salary cap charge dropping from $20 million to $7,383,333, a decrease of $12,616,667.
So, essentially running off Roethlisberger and trading a first-round pick for Stafford would result in a cap reduction at the starting quarterback position of just $11,616,667, which isn’t a whole heck of a lot in the grand scheme of things. It, would, however, result in the Steelers having a slightly younger veteran quarterback in Stafford, who would be under contract through the 2022 season and with a cap charge in 2022 of $29,308,333 due to the post-trade restructure. While Stafford is currently under contract for the 2023 season as well, it’s reportedly a voidable year. In essence, the Steelers would be trading to have Stafford for just two seasons, 2021 and 2022.
So, there are the facts for you. Is it plausible and doable for the Steelers to trade for Stafford in the coming weeks? I mean, I guess and especially from a cap economics standpoint. Once again, however, the whole process of getting Stafford via a trade in the next few weeks begins with Roethlisberger jettisoning himself from the Steelers or them jettisoning him.
In closing, yes, I think the Lions will be able to trade Stafford by March 17 and likely for at least a first-round pick. I do not, however, think the Steelers will be the team that trades for Stafford.
So, did I indulge enough of you?