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Matthew Stafford trade: Breaking down the financial implications for Detroit Lions

A look at how the Lions’ books will be impacted by acquiring Goff and sending Stafford away.

Los Angeles Rams v Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Detroit Lions made huge news on Saturday night by agreeing to send quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for Jared Goff, two first-round picks, and a third-round pick in return.

While most of the attention has been on the draft picks—and understandably so, two first-round picks is a huge return—there are also financial implications of this deal. With Jared Goff comes a pretty significant deal, and one that well supersedes the savings the Lions get from sending Stafford to the west coast.

Let’s break it all down.

Money saved from shipping Stafford

In 2021, Matthew Stafford was due to cost the Lions $33 million in cap space with a base salary of $9.5 million, a $10 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the 2021 league year and workout bonuses along the way.

But by sending him away, he’ll only cost $19 million against the Lions’ cap in 2021 clearing $14 million in cap space immediately.

The Rams take on the $9.5 million salary, the $10 million roster bonus, and the $500,000 in workout bonuses for a cap hit of just $20 million for them.

Jared Goff deal implications

The Lions undoubtedly did the Rams a favor by taking Goff’s deal off their plate. It almost certainly got the Lions more draft capital in return, though, which is what they are more interested in, since this is a rebuild for the future. Eating cap for the next two years is worth it to them if it means more young players on rookie deals. But how much cap, exactly, are they eating?

The Rams were in a situation where they were going to have to eat cap hits of $35, $33, and $32.5 million over the next three seasons with Goff, and cutting him would have only made matters worse. Instead, they’ll be assuming a $22.2 million cap hit by trading him, earning $12.75 million in cap space in the process.

The Lions will only be assuming the remaining guarantees on Goff’s contract, which include his $25.325 million salary in 2021. Throw in a $2.5 million roster bonus for 2021 the Lions are almost certainly going to give out in 2021—the Lions have reportedly told Goff he’s part of their future plans—and you’ve got a cap number of $27.825 million for this year.

Next year, Goff has a roster bonus that has already become guaranteed of $15.5 million. That’s the last remaining guaranteed bonus on Goff’s contract. So if Goff stays in 2022, he’ll cost the Lions that $15.5 million guaranteed plus his $10 million non-guaranteed base salary for a collective cap hit of $25.5 million. However, if the Lions want to move on, they’ll just owe Goff that $15.5 million roster bons and save $10 million of cap space.

After that, the Lions are home free. No guaranteed money remaining on Goff’s final two years (2023, 2024) means Detroit can cut him with no penalty. If they keep him, here are the numbers:

2023: $20 million base salary + $5 million roster bonus = $25 million cap hit
2024: $21 million base salary + $5 million roster bonus + $26 million cap hit

Year-by-year breakdown

Here’s what the financial breakdown is by year:


  • Lions free up $14 million in cap space from Stafford’s contract
  • Lions assume $27.825 million in cap hit from Goff’s contract

Net: $13.825 million added to cap


  • $25.5 million cap hit if Goff remains on team
  • $15.5 million cap hit if Lions cut Goff ($10 million in savings)


  • $25 million cap hit if Goff remains on team
  • $0 cap hit if Lions cut Goff ($25 million in savings)


  • $26 million cap hit if Goff remains on team
  • $0 cap hit if Lions cut Goff ($26 million in savings)

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