- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Washington Football Team missed out on Matthew Stafford as the potential fix at quarterback. But then again, judging by the price tag, maybe they were lucky. 

The Los Angeles Rams traded two first-rounders, a third-rounder and quarterback Jared Goff over the weekend to acquire Stafford from the Detroit Lions — a massive haul for one of the top signal-callers on the market. 

The cost was higher than league insiders expected, though it reflects a multitude of factors such as the demand for Stafford and the Rams’ eagerness to shed Goff’s four-year, $134 million contract.

Washington, by all accounts, was in the mix for the 12-year veteran. 

According to multiple reports, the team made a “significant” offer that would have included more immediate help for the Lions. Washington’s exact offer isn’t publicly known, but the pair of first-rounders that Detroit acquired won’t convey until 2022 and 2023. 

By chasing Stafford, Washington made it clear the team is willing to swing big as it searches for a quarterback who can help the team take the next step. 

But the Lions-Rams’ trade served as a reminder that the team’s solution at the position won’t come cheap. 

Reportedly seven to eight teams made an offer for Stafford — the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos among them. 

Since only the Rams ended up with Stafford, the others that missed out will likely still be in the market for a new signal-caller. 

There are only so many names available, particularly those who could lift Washington from scrappy division winner to an annual playoff contender. The biggest star, of course, is Houston’s Deshaun Watson — but the Texans insist they have no intention of trading the disgruntled 25-year-old. 

Stafford’s trade naturally raises questions about how his compensation will impact any deal for Watson. The thinking now goes like this: If Stafford, who turns 33 next week, warranted two first-rounders, then how many picks is a talent like Watson worth? 

The Houston Chronicle reported Sunday that if Houston decides to trade Watson, the Texans would likely want two first-rounders, two second-rounders and two young defensive starters — “at the least.” A three-time Pro Bowler who led the league in passing last season, Watson is just entering his prime and is seen as one of the best passers in football. 

The Texans, though, can slow play the process as the draft isn’t until late April. Before then, free agency will open and Washington could look there for an upgrade.

The top option, Dak Prescott, is unlikely to be available as the Cowboys have said they have no intention of letting the 27-year-old walk. If Prescott is given a second straight franchise or signed to a long-term extension, other names include Ryan Fitzpatrick, Cam Newton, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. 

None of those veterans would likely cost as much as the Rams paid for Stafford. Quarterbacks, though, almost always end up earning more than expected. Think back to when the Jacksonville Jaguars gave Nick Foles a four-year, $88 million contract in 2019 or when the San Francisco 49ers re-signed Jimmy Garoppolo to a five-year, $137.5 million extension.  Newton’s minimum prove-it deal with the Patriots last season is usually the exception.

For Washington, the goal is to find someone who can provide stability to the offense — and put up enough points to help capitalize on the team’s defense. Washington rotated through four quarterbacks in 2020 and their best starter — Alex Smith — isn’t a certainty to return. Even if Smith wants to play in 2021, the team can easily cut the 36-year-old.

Drafting a quarterback is the cheapest alternative. But with Washington picking at No. 19, the team is out of the range of the top prospects. Picking someone and having them compete with, say, Smith, Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke still leaves Washington with some uncertainty at the position. 

A year ago, Washington stayed patient. The team struck out on free agent targets like Amari Cooper and Austin Hooper, resorting to bargain-bin signings to address holes. That approach worked wonders, but Washington is in a different spot now. The team’s window to compete is open. 

Finding the right fit, however, is never easy.

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