The long-term ramifications of the Stafford-Goff trade

The Los Angeles Rams this past season bolstered the number one total and pass defense. They went 10-6 and won their wild card game at Seattle 30-20, despite quarterback Jared Goff playing while recovering from a broken thumb. However, the offensive limitations were exposed in the next round as they fell 32-18 to the Green Bay Packers. Goff completed 21 of 27 pass attempts, but for only 174 yards and a touchdown. He is a quarterback that clearly lost confidence, getting benched by head coach Sean McVay for the wild card game, only to play after the starter, John Wolford, left the game with a neck injury.

Goff suffered his worst season as the full-time starting quarterback for the Rams, throwing for less than 4,000 yards with only 20 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. He lost the touch he had on his deep ball, which is what made him an effective quarterback the first three seasons as the Rams’ franchise QB. While he achieved his career-best completion percentage of 67.0% in 2020, it came at the cost of the explosive plays that got the Rams to the Super Bowl in 2018. The cherry on top is that Goff cannot make up for it with mobility, a reason Wolford replaced Goff for the wild card game at Seattle.

With the Rams’ elite defense and the emergence of young running back Cam Akers, they could not afford to let mediocre QB play ruin their chance at a Super Bowl title.

So the Rams decided to swing for the fences and trade Goff, two first-round picks and a third-round pick to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford.

Stafford, while not having a single postseason win in his career (0-3), is a prolific QB that was stuck on an incompetent Lions franchise. Stafford is 16th all-time in career passing yards and has had eight seasons in which he passed for over 4,000 yards, including a 2011 campaign that saw him throw for 5,038 yards. After a 2020 season that saw the Lions go 5-11 despite throwing for over 4,000 yards and 26 touchdowns, Stafford requested a trade as the rebuild in Detroit is starting to take place.

For the Rams, they desperately needed an upgrade at the QB position and they got one with one of the most prolific and consistent QBs of the past decade. Stafford has had to deal with eight losing seasons, but now he gets to play for offensive genius in Rams’ head coach Sean McVay, along with a loaded receiving corp that includes Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and two dependable tight ends in Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee. Along with Akers and an elite defense, Stafford will have plenty of help as he will chase not only his first playoff win, but his first Super Bowl appearance as well.

Stafford’s mobility, combined with his excellent down-field passing, will add another dimension to the Rams’ offense. While the haul seemed like a lot, this trade is a win for the Rams. They have one of the best rosters in the NFL, and now they upgraded their biggest weakness. Stafford is only 32, meaning he will have a few more years of good productivity. With Goff and Stafford’s huge salaries, the financial burdens aren’t costly for the Rams as they will only need to shed $13 million in cap room to break even (compared to the $104 million the New Orleans Saints need to shed). Also, while the Rams’ will not pick in the first round until 2024 (haven’t owned their first-round pick since they drafted Goff back in 2016), they have shown they can draft well in the later rounds with key players in Akers, safeties Jordan Fuller, Taylor Rapp and Nick Scott and defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day, all being drafted after the first round. The Rams’ offense will improve under Stafford and with the top QBs in the NFC in Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers getting older, this is the perfect time for the Rams to go all-in, and I can see them in the Super Bowl within the next three seasons.

As for the Lions, it is clear they need to blow everything up and start the rebuild process after a disappointing 5-11 season. They let go of head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn and now, they traded their franchise QB. They hired Saints’ assistant coach, Dan Campbell to be their new head coach and (ironically) former Rams’ director of scouting, Brad Holmes, to be their new GM. With this new direction, the Lions head into an uncertain future without an established QB going forward and will potentially lose top wide receiver, Kenny Golladay, to free agency.

When starting a lengthy rebuild, acquiring as much draft capital is crucial and the Lions got the right amount for this trade. They will now have two first-round picks in the 2022 and 2023 NFL Drafts, the seventh-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and an extra third-round pick. All these extra picks, combined with possible top-five picks during their rebuild, will allow the Lions to build a new core and possibly become contenders in five years. Also, while taking on some of Goff’s salary isn’t ideal, it will work as Goff can be a nice placeholder as the Lions search for their next franchise QB. Even if the Lions choose to build the roster instead of drafting a QB in this upcoming draft, Goff can take the reins and carry the Lions throughout the lengthy rebuild as they attempt to develop their next franchise QB.

This trade is a classic example of a long-term vs short-term deal. The Rams will look to compete for the Super Bowl with Stafford while the Lions look to start their rebuild. I think the Rams will come out as the winners of this trade with a huge upgrade at QB, but time will tell if the Lions can use this trade to build a contending roster for the future.

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