SOURCE: Lions QB Stafford expected to retire

| April 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

The Detroit Lions may have a huge– and unexpected– problem on their hands.

Just a month after learning their all-time leading receiver is hanging up his cleats, there’s a growing buzz that quarterback Matthew Stafford may be next in line to walk away from the NFL. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson’s departure isn’t the sole reason Stafford may be on his way out, but dismissing it as a factor would be “ignoring the obvious,” per a team source.

Stafford, on loss of WR Calvin Johnson:

“He was a player that drew a bunch of attention, not only in the red zone but all over the field. He was a guy that led that receiver group, showed those guys what it was like to work and what it was like to try and dominate a game, take over a game.”

Since his first two seasons when injuries limited Stafford to just thirteen total starts, the 2009 top-overall draft pick has started all 82 Lions games (80 regular season plus 2 playoff) over the past five seasons. The hits and subsequent aches and pains have added up. Nearly half of the sacks Stafford has taken in his career have come over the last two years– a career-high 45  in 2014 and 44 more in 2015.

A league source says Stafford– age 28–  isn’t alone in his thought process.

“(The choice to retire early is) becoming a more and more frequent occurrence. With or without neuroscience and CTE studies, guys are acutely aware of the physical toll that comes with playing this game. We’re starting to see players accept the risks for a few years, build up some wealth, and then get out before– they hope– any real damage is done.”

While word of Stafford’s possible retirement hasn’t been well-publicized, those in the know have had an inkling for months.

The Lions are making every effort to keep Stafford in the fold. Obviously, the team wants to hang onto its asset but it’s not just about what happens on the field. Stafford retiring with two years left on his deal would obliterate the Lions’ salary cap situation.

If Stafford quits, Detroit is left with one QB– Dan Orlovsky (2-10 in twelve NFL starts since being selected by the Lions in the fifth round of the 2005 NFL Draft– yes, that Dan Orlovsky)– on its depth chart. They’d likely need to pluck a QB from the free agency leftover bin (Ryan Fitzpatrick? Josh Freeman? Charlie Whitehurst?) and add another in this week’s draft.

The Lions first three picks are 19th, 46th, and 95th overall.

In just seven seasons, Stafford has played in 93 games and obliterated nearly every meaningful passing record (touchdowns, yards, completions, attempts, etc.) in Lions history. If he’s done, he’ll finish third all-time in games by a Lions quarterback behind Greg Landry (102) and Bobby Layne (97.)

This story may seem all too familiar to Lions fans. In addition to Calvin Johnson calling it quits last month, career rushing leader Barry Sanders surprised the team with his sudden retirement in 1998.

Category: sports feature