The Detroit Lions had a complicated decision to make with regards to trading Matthew Stafford, and with several teams interested, the decision on the best deal was one the team had to carefully weigh.
Depending on who you talk to, there was said to be anywhere from five to seven teams with strong interest in Stafford and potentially strong offers on the table. But what team were the runners-up when all was said and done for Stafford’s services? Potentially none other than the Carolina Panthers according to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated.
According to Breer, medicals were on the way to being exchanged, but the Lions changed course and went on to accept a deal from the Los Angeles Rams, leaving the Panthers the jilted team.
As Breer wrote:
“So who finished second in the Matthew Stafford derby? I’m told the Panthers, at one point on Saturday, were to the point where they were in the process of obtaining Stafford’s medicals from Detroit. Obviously, things changed from there, with the Rams’ persistence and aggression winning the day. But if you figured the Panthers’ haul for Stafford was strong—the eighth pick, plus another pick—then I’d say the sellers in this equation would agree with you, because they almost took it.”
The one thing Carolina may not have had, however, was a young quarterback with much upside for the future. The Lions got that in the deal with the Rams in the form of Jared Goff, as well as an additional first-round pick. In the same piece, Breer confirmed that Goff was a huge selling point for Dan Campbell, who wanted to find a quarterback in a trade if possible. Carolina couldn’t match that, which is likely why the Lions went with the Rams offer in the end.
Even such, it seems a deal with Carolina was still very close to happening.
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Panthers Were Seen as Matthew Stafford ‘Dark Horse’
It’s not a shock to hear reports that a deal was close between Detroit and Carolina. As Gil Brandt said before the trades were even being discussed, the Lions could have found an easy suitor for Stafford in the form of the Panthers, who quietly need a quarterback as well and might be on the hunt for one starting this season. As a result, he saw them as quiet contenders for a deal all along.
I think Carolina is a darkhorse team to watch in any Matthew Stafford trade. Sweet spot for me is teams in the backend of the first round. Panthers are at No. 8, which would give Lions two in top 10. Teddy Bridgewater isn't answer in Carolina. Stafford has several good years left
— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) January 25, 2021
The Panthers did have a fit for Stafford, considering Teddy Bridgewater might not be the long-term solution for the team. They also had a high draft pick to dangle at number eight, which Detroit appeared to have enough interest in to consider a deal. With pick seven and eight, the Lions could have had plenty of ammunition to make moves in the 2021 NFL Draft to help their roster in plenty of ways.
Lions Managed to Do Well With Matthew Stafford Trade
Fans and media members can say all they want about the actual trade’s merits either way, but any time a team can cash in with a couple of first-round picks no matter where they’re located, it’s a solid move. Adding Jared Goff adds a level of intrigue to the deal considering he could still have plenty of good years left and the Lions might view him as part of the solution in Detroit. Adding a third-round pick this season helps the Lions right now, and adds to their firepower early in the draft to find players who can help immediately.
Having an extra first-round pick this year would have helped, but the Lions did right by Stafford, who reportedly wanted to go to the Rams. To this end, everyone is likely happy with the deal on both sides, and that’s all that matters.
The Panthers might not be so happy to have come this close to Stafford and missed out, however.