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Cole: Buyer Beware for teams banking on extraordinary quarterback play from Matthew Stafford

Multiple sources reported on Saturday night that Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions have mutually agreed to part ways this offseason and that the team will explore trade opportunities in the coming weeks.

This sparked immediate speculation about his most likely suitors, ranging from teams with no obvious current option such as the Indianapolis Colts to those with putative but shaky starters such as the San Francisco 49ers.

Stafford has intrigued NFL front offices his entire career, moving from the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft to the NFL's highest-paid quarterback. After a highly efficient but shortened 2019 campaign, NFL evaluators surveyed by The Athletic’s Mike Sando ranked Stafford ninth among franchise quarterbacks entering the 2020 season, above former MVP Matt Ryan, rising star Dak Prescott and potential Hall of Famer Philip Rivers.

The questions on Stafford have never been about a lack of respect in the league, but rather if the perception matches reality.

In the 10 seasons in which Stafford has logged at least 300 dropbacks, only three times has he ranked within the top 10 quarterbacks in PFF passing grade. He's never ranked higher than sixth.

More often than not, Stafford has been solidly in the QB8-QB16 range, whether looking at grades or efficiency as measured by expected points added (EPA) per play.

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