Rams trade Goff for Stafford
February 4, 2021
The time is now. The Los Angeles Rams blockbuster trade eight days before Super Bowl LV made them a serious contender for next season's Super Bowl LVI to be held at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. On Saturday, January 30, the Rams agreed to trade 5-year NFL quarterback Jared Goff, two 1st-Round and one 3rd-Round draft picks to the Detroit Lions for 12-year veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford.
The immediate winners are owner Stan Kroenke and head coach Sean McVay. The trade allows the Rams to get a top-level quarterback to open up McVay's offensive playbook. It also improves the team's marketing assets that will be needed to fill the 70,000 plus seats at SoFi Stadium. That's obviously contingent upon whether fans will be allowed to attend games in the $5 billion state-of-art entertainment facility in 2021 because of the coronavirus.
Originally scheduled to open in 2018, weather forced a year's delay in completing the project. The Rams played before an empty house during SoFi's Inaugural Season in 2020 due to pandemic restrictions. That's a two-year revenue loss in suite packages, ticket sales, parking, concessions, etc.
The trade appears to be a win-win for both teams. Rams general manager Les Snead's expensive but relatively quick negotiations with the Lions instantly elevated the team on the field while alleviating some pressure off the field in terms of the salary-cap. They got rid of a quarterback they had lost faith in for an accomplished, but unfulfilled quarterback. But now the pressure is on McVay to use Stafford's skillset to win an NFL title. Anything less will be considered a failure.
Familiarity likely smoothed the talks. Lions new general manager Brad Holmes, on the job for only two weeks, was the Rams director of college scouting the past seven years before leaving for Detroit. He and Snead hammered out a deal while a handful of other very interested NFL teams got shut out. Those included division rival San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Washington Football Team and the Indianapolis Colts.
The Lions now have multiple draft assets to help them rebuild after a disappointing 13-29-1 record for past three seasons under former head coach Matt Patricia. He was replaced with five games to go this season by interim head coach Darrell Bevell, who finished with a 1-4 record. Dan Campbell, 11-year assistant coach and former player, was hired to be the Lions' head coach on January 20.
Three days later, former Los Angeles Charger head coach Anthony Lynn was hired as offensive coordinator for the Lions. He will likely focus on developing a strong running attack featuring D'Andre Swift, who had a promising rookie season in 2020. Goff is familiar with a run-oriented offense and has had more success with play-action calls.
The Rams disappointing offensive performance for the past two seasons was a buildup to the Rams' disappointing playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago. Much of the concern was Goff's regressive play since Super Bowl LIII two years ago. Just as damaging was the high-priced contract extension the Rams signed with him soon after. Ultimately, Goff failed to live up to team's expectations as the NFL's 2016 top draft choice.
By trading away their top draft choices for the next two seasons, the Rams could likely go seven consecutive seasons without having a first-round selection, from 2017-2023. They don't have a first-round pick this season, sacrificed in the trade for All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey during the 2019 season. Despite the lack of top draft picks, the Rams have had four winning seasons since McVay took over in 2017, with an overall 43-21 regular season record and a 3-3 playoff record.
The team will have the overall No. 57 pick as their top choice in the 2021 NFL Draft starting Thursday, April 29. They also have the No. 89 pick in the third round and will likely receive two more third-round compensatory picks for losing Brad Holmes to the Lions and for Dante Fowler going to the Atlanta Falcons for the 2020 season.
Over the past two seasons, Stafford threw 45 touchdowns and only 15 interceptions in 24 games. During the same period, Goff threw 42 touchdowns and 29 interceptions in 31 games. The Rams had the league's top defense and tenth-rated rushing offense. In contrast, the Lions had the NFL's worst defense and the 30th-ranked rushing offense. Stafford performed well despite being in a compromised position. With an excellent defense, but without the offense being centered around a healthy Todd Gurley setting records at running back as in 2017 and 2018, Goff struggled to remain an average quarterback and rarely performed at a high level for an entire game over the past two years.
The Rams take on Stafford's remaining contract of $42.2 million for two years. They also have the option of restructuring his contract to give themselves more salary-cap space. By trading Goff, the Rams set the record for the highest single-season dead cap hit by an NFL team at $22.2 million. That surpasses the #21.8 million record they set last season when they traded Brandin Cooks to the Houston Texans.
The trade leaves the Rams with basically $12.4 million in cap space for next season. Goff would have been paid $34.75 million if the Rams had kept him for the 2021 season. Now, instead they will be paying Stafford $42.2 million, it will cost them only an additional $7.45 million to get the quarterback they feel gives them a legitimate shot to win the title next season.
When SoFi Stadium was originally secured as being the site for Super LV, (the construction weather delay setback the team hosting for one year) the Rams certainly entertained the idea that they would be representing the NFC. The trade for Stafford might make that a reality.