NFL Hot Press: Carolina Had Stafford But Waited

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Combine Logo Carolina Had Stafford But Waited

Updated March 2, 2022
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

The Rams and Lions trade of Matthew Stafford kicked off last offseason, and it proved to be the most monumental move for the 2021 season. Stafford led the Rams to a Super Bowl Championship in his first season in with the team, but the trade came so close to never happening. Just before this year’s Super Bowl, reporters from Carolina wrote about how the Panthers were close to landing Stafford in a trade instead of the Rams. In speaking to NFL sources, Detroit was ready to finalize a trade with Carolina for Stafford, but the Panthers wouldn’t finalize the deal because they wanted to wait in order to do more work and tests. In that time, the Rams swooped in with a better offer and landed Stafford.

During the 2021 Senior Bowl, the Lions and Panthers worked out what the Stafford trade would be. The center piece that Detroit would have gotten was the No. 8-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, which the Panthers later used on South Carolina quarterback Jaycee Horn. Carolina and Detroit had the compensation agreed to, and when the two teams left Mobile, sources that there was a 90 percent chance that Stafford was going to be traded to Carolina.

Detroit was ready to finalize the trade had it be a done deal before leaving Alabama, but Carolina did not want to finalize the trade yet. The Panthers wanted to take the weekend to do more work and tests before executing the trade. The Lions said that was fine, but they would stay open to other offers in the mean time. That Saturday, the Rams swooped in and offered two first-round picks and veteran quarterback Jared Goff. Getting two first-rounders and a quarterback who went to the Super Bowl a few years earlier was a much better offer for the Lions, so they seized it.

Carolina was shocked and stunned, but the extra work and tests that owner David Tepper and head coach Matt Rhule wanted to run cost the organization a trade for Stafford. As they say, the rest is history.