Detroit Lions: Trade away star players, identity goes too

Darius Slay, Detroit Lions. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Darius Slay, Detroit Lions. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

If the Detroit Lions were to trade away star players as recent sources suggest, what is the team’s identity in the wake of those moves?

When you think of the Detroit Lions, who are the best players that come to mind on either side of the ball? On offense, quarterback Matthew Stafford has been this team’s rock and best player. On defense, recently it has been cornerback Darius Slay as the best player.

Could the Lions really trade Stafford and Slay away? If they do, their identity is lost with them. Detroit fans will know the players that remain, but the star power and draw to watch this team will have disappeared.

Earlier this month, the Slay talks were about an extension that both sides had been working on for quite some time. It would make sense for the star cornerback to be getting an extension from the Lions as a playmaker and solid piece to their defensive puzzle.

But then, on Monday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted that trade talks have been underway for Slay’s services. He also mentioned those talks could continue at the combine in Indianapolis later this month. He even mentions Slay might have the team’s permission to speak with other teams and find interest in a trade.

Detroit Lions fans have to be reeling right now. Two major players, and arguably most recognizable in this current franchise, are being talked about as though they might not be wearing Honolulu Blue next season. But where will they go?

For Slay, multiple teams are in the mix. Leading those teams are the Denver Broncos, since they tried to trade for Slay last season, and the Philadelphia Eagles, named by multiple outlets, including ESPN, as a suitor.

One team tried to trade for Slay already while another team is a potential landing spot that makes a lot of sense. But does it make sense for Detroit? And why now?

Fans and media were wondering if current general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia should even have their jobs after last season’s debacle. Today, they both still have their jobs and are essentially on the hot seat before the 2020 season even kicks off.

Whether it has been publicly said or not, this team is in win-now mode. Laugh if you must, but this team was a bundle of injuries and six fourth-quarter blown leads away from winning nine games and contending for a playoff spot in 2019.

Yes, with a healthy Stafford and Slay, new ammunition from free agency and the draft, this team can win right now. Say it with me, ‘This team can win now!’ Okay, stop laughing. They really aren’t that far away, even if last season didn’t look like it.

Would a bundle of early-round draft picks replace two key pieces of this team? Not right away. Which is why this team would be worse if these trades happened. And Quinn and Patricia would be out of the job before they got to see those draft picks develop. It would be a complete lame-duck season.

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It doesn’t add up. Keep the talent. And then in the draft, take more talent with the picks you have. Fewer injuries and healthy key players will go a long way in 2020. But if Stafford and Slay are gone, so is this team’s identity and their hopes for a winning season and making playoffs. Especially if they only get draft picks in return.