Patriots: Why Mike Lombardi thinks Pats ‘in front’ for Matthew Stafford

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - DECEMBER 26: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - DECEMBER 26: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

NFL insider Michael Lombardi thinks the Patriots are leading the chase for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

All eyes will be on the New England Patriots this offseason after they finished with their worst record (7-9) since the start of their dynasty.

While they obviously have several gaping holes to fill, the quarterback situation sticks out the most after signing Cam Newton to a one-year contract last year didn’t end up working out.

There currently figures to be two guys, Deshaun Watson and Matthew Stafford — maybe three if Aaron Rodgers ends up demanding a trade — available who could lead them to the playoffs assuming other positions of need are addressed.

The prospect of acquiring any one of those gunslingers is enough to make you want to fast forward to next season, and fans will love hearing that insider Michael Lombardi (who certainly has feelers in New England, to say the least) has tabbed the Patriots as one of the two current favorites to land Stafford.

In his latest column for The Athletic, quoted above in NESN’s writing, Lombardi offered up his analysis of the situation, and he based most of it on the financial side of things.

"“As for the other NFC North quarterback making waves, Stafford will have many suitors,” Lombardi wrote. “The Colts and the Patriots are the front-runners as they’re the two teams that have the cap room to handle Stafford right away. Stafford has a $20 million cap charge that cannot be reworked until he is on his new team.”“The team that trades for him must have the room to take on his deal, then they can lower his cap charge. Many teams can handle his cash and salary; few can handle that initial charge, which is why the Colts and Patriots are in front.”"

That will come as music to the ears of Patriots fans, but are we really supposed to believe that the Stafford sweepstakes will only boil down to teams who are able to absorb his contract? All we’ve heard from analysts since he demanded a trade was that his affordable salary ($22 million), combined with his cap hit ($59 million) over the next two years, is what makes him such an appealing target.

If that was the case, then wouldn’t Washington, a team that’ll be in the market for a quarterback and is projected to have the most cap space in the league next season by a wide margin, be leading this so-called race?

Given where the Patriots’ roster stands, they’ve been largely viewed as an afterthought in terms of being able to orchestrate a trade of such magnitude. After all, not only can they not afford to ship off a bounty of draft picks, but other teams, like Washington and Indianapolis, have more to offer from a talent perspective.

Not to mention their divisions are there for the taking and Matt Patricia, Stafford’s former head coach in Detroit who he reportedly wasn’t a big fan of, has rejoined the Patriots’ staff. That’s a huge deal, and Lombardi blatantly glossed over it in his analysis.

We don’t want to go as far as to say that the Patriots aren’t in contention to trade for Stafford, or any elite quarterback for that matter, but we simply can’t find it within ourselves to agree with Lombardi’s assessment of the competing market.