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Lions Mailbag: How does Matthew Stafford take the next jump?

Where does Matthew Stafford rank among quarterbacks and what does he need to do to jump up those rankings? That's a question in this week's Lions Mailbag.

To ask your question, email me at michael.rothstein@espn.com, tweet with the hashtag #LionsMailbag or ask away on my Facebook page.

Now, on to your questions.

@mikerothstein: I don't always like the notion of elite when it comes to football unless you're talking about a surefire Hall of Famer (Tom Brady, Peyton Manning in his prime, Aaron Rodgers) because so much of it depends on who else is around the quarterback. The biggest issue for Stafford, in my opinion, is consistency. He's shown flashes of being a top-10 quarterback in the league. You saw that in the second half of the 2015 season. If he can translate that to a performance over a full year, then he has a shot to take the next step. He has all of the tools to make it happen and showed he has the ability. @mikerothstein: Chris Ivory's a good player, but my guess is if he leaves the Jets, he would want to go to a place where he would become the lead back. That's not likely to happen in Detroit with the investment the team has put into Ameer Abdullah, the strong role Theo Riddick has and the potential of Zach Zenner coming off his season-ending lung injury. If the Lions let go of Joique Bell, I could see them adding a veteran, but Detroit has too many holes in too many other spots to go after a top-flight running back, considering the players already in place. That money would be better spent on the lines, secondary, linebacker or receiver. @mikerothstein: Sure, the Lions could go after another center, but I wouldn't totally write off Travis Swanson yet. He didn't have the best season, but the line as a whole struggled and Detroit was in a blocking system that didn't exactly fit the skills of their players for half the season. Detroit has higher priorities than center and could bring in a veteran to push/replace Swanson, but I don't know if the draft is necessarily the way to go there. Tackle (offensive and defensive), safety, linebacker, receiver and corner all are bigger priorities, in my opinion.

Cody asks via email: How many starters have expiring contracts? What's our cap looking like before releases and restructuring? Any gut feelings on who the Lions might go after in free agency? Personally would like to see Okung, switch sides with Reff, and focus on defense in draft.

Rothstein: Cody, five starters have expiring contracts and they are all on defense. Jason Jones, Haloti Ngata, Tyrunn Walker, Tahir Whitehead and the combination of Isa Abdul-Quddus and James Ihedigbo at strong safety are all up. I would be surprised if all were back with the Lions and would not be shocked if at least three were not for various reasons (age, skills, money). According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Lions should have around $19.9 million in cap space entering 2016 before any other moves, and that includes the Calvin Johnson decision and what the team might do with Bell, Brandon Pettigrew and Stephen Tulloch. So there will be money to play with. Not sure who the Lions will target in free agency yet, but there will be money to go after some players if they choose. I think the decisions of the four guys mentioned above could have a lot to do with it.