How Washington trading for Matthew Stafford is similar to the Alex Smith deal

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Mike DePrisco
·3 min read
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A Washington trade for Stafford would be similar to Smith deal originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Washington Football Team faces a familiar decision entering the 2021 offseason: Where will it find its next franchise quarterback?

It's not a bad year to need a new field general. There's legitimate talent at the top of this year's draft class, a number of veterans look to be on the move and disgruntled MVP candidate Deshaun Watson's days in Houston appear numbered.

Other than the dream scenario of a Watson trade or moving up in the draft to get Justin Fields or Zach Wilson, Matthew Stafford has become the prime target among Washington Football fans hoping their team can secure a dynamic passer to lead the offense. Stafford and the Lions have reportedly mutually agreed to part ways, so a former No. 1 overall pick can be had for the right price.

As the franchise and its fans ponder the idea of trading for Stafford, you only have to look back three years for evidence of the team making a move for an established veteran quarterback. 

In January of 2018, Washington traded a third-round pick and Kendall Fuller for 33-year-old Alex Smith to replace free agent Kirk Cousins. His stats in the season leading up to the trade are scary close to what Stafford put up in his last season with the Lions. 

2017 Alex Smith (Age 33): 4,042 yards, 67.5% comp, 26 TD, 5 INT, 65.1 QBR

2020 Matthew Stafford (Age 32): 4,084 yards, 64.2% comp, 26 TD, 10 INT, 68.5 QBR

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Thanks to some notably bad injury luck and an unstable coaching situation, Smith's time in Washington hasn't resulted in a ton of playoff success, though there were great moments this past season as he helped lead the team to a playoff berth. 

Stafford hasn't won a playoff game in his entire 11-year career and has had issues staying healthy. Is it reasonable to wonder whether Stafford will experience a similar drop-off to Smith over the next four of five seasons. 

The difference now is Washington is in a better position to make a move like that work. When Smith arrived in Washington and signed a four-year, $94 million extension, Jay Gruden was the head coach just a season-and-a-half away from getting fired, Bruce Allen headed the front office and the team's top two receivers were Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder. 

Now, Ron Rivera provides stability at head coach, Washington has two experienced executives running the front office in Martin Mayhew and Marty Hurney, Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson are two rising stars on offense and the defense blossomed into an elite unit in 2020 with rookie phenom Chase Young leading the way. 

It's difficult to determine whether Detroit would require a starter and a mid-round pick in exchange for Stafford or Washington's interest in that kind of trade. This is a move they've made before, though, and they're in a much better than last time to make it pay off.