Matthew Stafford was open to being traded to any team but one: The New England Patriots, at least according to NBC Sports Tom E. Curran. The Lions ultimately agreed to terms to trade their veteran quarterback to the Rams in exchange for Jared Goff, two future first-round picks and a 2021 third-round pick, as confirmed by CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora. The trade cannot become official until March 17, the start of the league's new year.
Why Stafford did not want to go to New England is anyone's guess. One can assume that Stafford did not want to be part of a team that could be going through a roster rebuild. After an improbable run with Tom Brady, the Patriots stumbled to a 7-9 record in 2020. Brady's departure, numerous COVID-19 opt-outs, and several injuries at key positions contributed to New England's first losing record since 2000. The elevated competition in a division the Patriots dominated for two full decades also contributed to last year's decline.
Playing outdoors in a cold-weather climate may have also contributed to Stafford nixing the Patriots as a possible trade option. Bill Belichick's demanding reputation, along with the fact that former Lions coach Matt Patricia has re-joined the Patriots' coaching staff, may have also contributed to Stafford's decision.
There's also the notion that Stafford did not want to follow in the shadow of Brady, who led the Patriots to six Super Bowl wins in nine trips to the big game. And while his eight touchdown passes warrants criticism, it appeared that Cam Newton, despite rushing for 12 scores and completing nearly 66% of his passes, was never going to be fully embraced by a fan base that has become accustomed to watching the quarterback position be played at the highest possible level. That is probably not the most desirable environment for Stafford, whose arrival in Los Angeles will surely be welcomed by a fan base that has seen a Super Bowl win (the Rams won their lone Super Bowl in St. Louis).
Of course, this all speculation, and unless we hear directly from Stafford, we'll never know for sure. Either way, it's not a great look for the Patriots.
While Stafford did not want to play New England, the Patriots still have options to upgrade the quarterback position this offseason. Deshaun Watson has publicly requested a trade. But given their lack of desirable assets, the Patriots, like the Rams, would likely have to trade multiple first-round picks for Watson, last year's passing champion. The Patriots could also use the No. 15 overall pick on a quarterback. In his recent mock draft, CBS Sports lead NFL Draft analyst Ryan Wilson has the Patriots selecting Justin Fields, whose erratic final season at Ohio State may lead to him falling to the Patriots.