The Detroit Lions pulled off a massive trade on Saturday night, sending franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Rams. And while the two first-round picks and a third-round pick are certainly the highlights of the deal, one of the more intriguing aspects of the trade is Detroit’s acquisition of quarterback Jared Goff.
It’s clear why the Los Angeles Rams parted ways with Goff. His career was on the decline in Los Angeles after the team handed him a massive four-year, $134 million extension prior to the 2019 season. They made it pretty clear this offseason they were trying to get out from that massive contract.
From the Lions’ point of view, though, the picture isn’t quite as clear. Did the Lions take Goff and the remaining $43 million guaranteed on his contract simply to acquire more draft capital? We often see this sort of thing in the NBA where bad teams put themselves in a tougher position today in order to set themselves up better for the future. And it appears the Lions turned down some very competitive offers that would’ve included draft picks this year, giving them a better shot a quick turnaround.
However, Lions general manager Brad Holmes was also the director of college scouting when the Rams drafted Goff back in 2016. When Rams general manager Les Snead turned to him before draft day that year and asked Holmes if Goff was worth trading up to get in the draft, without hesitation Holmes said yes.
And now, it appears new Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell has already spoken to Goff and has told him he’s their starter for the future.
Just talked to Jared Goff — he has already spoken to Lions coach Dan Campbell and several other members of the Lions’ staff. Based on those conversations, they very clearly view him as their starter moving forward. Physical coming soon. Sounds like they’re fired up to have him.— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) January 31, 2021
Two years ago, it would’ve been unthinkable for Goff to be considered a salary cap dump in a trade. In 2018, Goff ranked fourth in the NFL in yards per attempt (8.4), eighth in passer rating (101.1), 10th in QBR (63.6) and seventh in PFF grade (85.5).
The Lions are clearly trying to build a team that can run the ball successfully under the tutelage of new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, and that’s when Goff is at his best. It’s no coincidence that Goff’s stats plummeted in the past two seasons when the Rams ranked 27th (2019) and 17th (2020) in yards per carry.
It’s certainly understandable if Holmes believes Goff—a player he was clearly confident in during the draft process and someone who had a pair of undeniably good season in the NFL—can put the extremely disappointing last two seasons behind him and get back to that back-to-back Pro Bowl level of play. But more importantly, there almost no long-term risk in finding out. If he hits the ground running in Detroit, his cap hits of $25 million and $26 million in 2023 and 2024 will look like absolute steals. If Goff falls on his face, Detroit can cut him in 2023 with absolutely no cap ramifications going forward.
Of course, that all could simply be the Lions talking up their guy. With the cap hit they’re taking on with Goff’s contract, he almost certainly will be the team’s starter in 2021. So why not gas him up a little bit?
Overall, the Lions will continue to talk up Goff, because they’re stuck with him for two years. Whether they truly believe in him will only be revealed in the long term.