Detroit Lions 'totally comfortable' with Matthew Stafford, say he's near full health
MOBILE, Ala. — The Detroit Lions will do their due diligence on Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa, but general manager Bob Quinn does not sound like a man interested in using their No. 3 overall pick on a quarterback.
Quinn, in an interview on SiriusXM NFL radio, said Monday that he's "totally comfortable and happy that Matthew Stafford’s our quarterback" for 2020.
"He’s going to be in full health once the offseason program starts its course," he said. "He’s pretty much at full health. Talked to him about 10 days ago. He was in the office, so he’s feeling great, he’s in a good mindset. He’s excited."
Stafford missed the final eight games of the season with a back injury and the Lions went winless in his absence, plummeting to a place in the NFL draft where they may be able to find his replacement.
Tagovailoa was widely considered the best draft-eligible quarterback in college football entering this season, but he suffered a dislocated hip in a November loss to Mississippi State that has his draft stock in flux.
LSU's Joe Burrow is expected to go No. 1 overall, and Tagovailoa still should go in the top seven if his medical exams check out.
Quinn, speaking to Alex Marvez and Gil Brandt before a session of night meetings with players at the Senior Bowl, was asked why he's optimistic Stafford could be headed for a bounce-back season and what his response is to speculation the Lions could take a quarterback high in this year's draft.
While Quinn did not directly address the second part of the question, he lauded Stafford's leadership and indicated he has no lingering concerns about his health.
Stafford was one of the NFL's premier ironmen before his November back injury, starting 136 straight games.
"I feel great about Matthew," Quinn said. "He’s going to come back strong when we’re ready to go for next year."
Stafford's contract is such that even if the Lions take a quarterback high, he'll likely remain with the team in 2020.
The Lions did a simple restructure of Stafford's contract late in the season, using some of their 2019 cap space to absorb a portion of a roster bonus he was originally due in March.
That mechanism left Stafford with a $26.7 million cap hit in 2020. Should the Lions trade Stafford, they'd still be on the books for $24.8 million in dead money.
Quinn said previously this offseason that the Lions might consider spending more money on a veteran backup for Stafford after both Jeff Driskel (0-3) and David Blough (0-5) failed to win a game as starter.
The Lions gutted their tight-end room last offseason, signing Jesse James and Logan Thomas in free agency and drafting T.J. Hockenson and Isaac Nauta, and they might undergo a similar makeover with another position group this spring.
Quinn said the Lions have cornerstone pieces on their offensive line in place at center and left and right tackle, and he said he's happy with the edge rushers and linebackers on his roster, but admitted: "Obviously, there’s going to be some positions that we’re going to have to totally redo."
"I think there’s some pieces there that we need to obviously attack in free agency and the draft," he said. "But I think there’s certain positions that we feel really good about that we’re not going to have to do much on the roster at all."
The Lions have two offensive linemen, Graham Glasgow and Kenny Wiggins, who were at least part-time starters in 2019 who will be free agents in March. The team also could have major turnover at the interior defensive line and cornerback positions.
At defensive tackle, Mike Daniels and A'Shawn Robinson are free agents, and Damon Harrison is contemplating retirement, though a league source said Monday that decision remains several weeks away.
At cornerback, Rashaan Melvin is a free agent, and the Lions have to decide what they'll do with three-time Pro Bowler Darius Slay.
In his first public comments since the Lions made a rash of coaching moves, Quinn praised new coordinators Cory Undlin and Brayden Coombs as "young guys" and "good leaders" who "have good scheme."
"Cory was with Coach (Matt Patricia) and actually myself in New England (in 2004) for one season, so there’s a little history there," Quinn said. "He’s been around to a bunch of different staffs, most recently with Philly. So he’s a great coach ...
"And Brayden’s a young coach that we’ve had our eye on for a couple years. Cincinnati’s done a great job with their special teams the last few years. I think they were the highest-ranked special teams in the league this year ... We went through an intensive interview process with him over the course of a couple days and really came out impressed, so we’re excited to have both those guys."
Both Undlin and Coombs are expected to meet with reporters on Tuesday.