A star with the Detroit Lions is finally getting a chance elsewhere.
The Detroit Lions are trading their longtime franchise player and quarterback, Matthew Stafford, to the Los Angeles Rams in a deal that will net the Lions quarterback Jared Goff and a hefty package of draft picks, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The package of draft picks that Detroit will receive includes a third-rounder in 2021’s upcoming draft and first round choices in 2022 and 2023, sources told Schefter.
This deal, which is the first ever swap of number one overall picks in the common draft era (since 1967), proved that the Lions under the new guidance of recently hired general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell are serious about this rebuild.
Holmes, who spent the past 17 years in the Rams’ scouting department, wasted no time going back to the well at his new gig. After Stafford and the team decided it would be mutually beneficial to trade him, Holmes had serious interest from seven or eight teams, but his old employers ended up winning the Stafford sweepstakes.
The trade, however, cannot be finalized until the new league year officially starts on March 17th—this season’s Super Bowl, for which the Kansas City Chiefs are -3 point favorites at -120 NFL odds (Betway), hasn’t even been played yet for crying out loud. Just two weeks ago Goff was still trying to lead the Rams to a Super Bowl, now he’s packing up and heading for Michigan.
This deal seems like a rare trade that is a genuine win-win for both sides: the Rams become instant contenders thanks to their best quarterback since Marc Bulger, and the Lions are given a headstart for their rebuild thanks to five first-round picks over the next three years.
The Rams haven’t drafted in the first round since Goff in 2016 won’t draft in the first again until 2024 at the earliest. But with the elite defense they’ve managed to build and the glut of talent at the offensive skill positions, Sean McVay’s squad really just needed a signal caller who could put them over the top, and Stafford is more likely to be that guy than Goff.
Stafford came into the league as Detroit’s first pick following their 0-16 season, and despite a lack of playoff success over the past dozen years, Stafford’s Lions were always competitive, thanks in large part to the Georgia product’s penchant for late-game heroics, including 38 game-winning drives (eighth all-time) and 31 fourth-quarter comebacks (seventh).
The 32-year-old came in and started in his first game as a rookie in 2009, and a dozen years on, he now holds every Lions passing record worth a damn, not to mention he’s also ranked 16th all-time in passing yards (45,109) and passing touchdowns (282).
After being forced to miss 19 games across his first two seasons due to various ailments, Stafford went on an iron man streak of 136 straight games that started with a 2011 campaign that saw him throw for career highs in passing yards (5,038) and passing touchdowns (41) on his way to Comeback Player of the Year honors. During his iron man streak Stafford built up a reputation for toughness, playing through countless injuries including a dislocation in the middle finger on his throwing hand in 2016 and fractures in his back in 2018.
The back issues finally won out in 2019, forcing Stafford to miss half of the season and sowing the seeds for this parting of ways between franchise quarterback and franchise. Stafford will now get a chance to start healthy and anew in L.A., and he’s already got an estate in Orange County and a childhood friend in L.A. Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw to help ease the transition.
The Rams can’t confirm the trade because the new league year hasn’t officially started, but the team did tweet at Kershaw—who attended Highland Park High School with Stafford in Dallas—asking the former Cy Young winner, “Have you heard from an old friend today?”
Seeing Stafford get a chance somewhere else after paying his dues for a decade in Detroit makes one think of other Lions stars Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson, who retired in their primes after a decade playing for the poorly managed doormats of the NFL that are the Lions sapped their love for the game of football.
Thankfully, the same fate hasn’t befallen Stafford, and who knows, maybe Holmes and Campbell will finally put together a respectable team in the Motor City. Goff was told by Campbell that he was part of the team’s future plans, according to ESPN’s Jeff Darlington.
The Novato, California native had two great years in 2017 and 2018, leading his team to the Super Bowl (which they lost) in the latter campaign. That success led the team to sign Goff to a four-year, $134-million contract with $110 million in guaranteed money, after which he and the offense fell right off a cliff.
The Rams dropped from the second-most potent offense in the league in 2018 (32.9 points a game) to 23rd (23.3) in 2020 while Goff put up a miserable 42-38 TD-TO ratio over those two seasons.
Goff has actually committed more turnovers over the past two seasons than all but one other quarterback, and Goff was in such bad form that the Rams started undrafted quarterback John Wolford in their opening playoff game last month, though a Wolford concussion would force Goff into the game in the end. After Goff did next-to-nothing in a 32-18 loss to the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round, McVay said, “Yeah, [Goff]’s our quarterback, right now.”
Goff has had quite a topsy-turvy time in the NFL. He started off his career getting picked No. 1 overall by the Rams in their first season back in the L.A., which means the kid has been dealing with loads of pressure right from the start. Maybe some time with the rebuilding Lions, who are under far less scrutiny, could help Goff start to rediscover his confidence after last season’s debacle.
Our NFL prediction is that if the Lions can start building a solid culture and return to competitiveness in Detroit over the next couple of years while the Rams challenge for Super Bowls with Stafford, this will have been a true win-win trade.