The Los Angeles Rams and Detroit Lions pulled off the first of what’s expected to be many mega-quarterback moves in the 2021 NFL offseason when they completed a trade Saturday involving two former No. 1 overall picks, Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford.
First, the details:
Lions get: QB Jared Goff, 3rd-round pick in 2021, 1st-round pick in 2022, 1st-round pick in 2023
Rams get: QB Matthew Stafford
The trade continued the Rams’ organizational philosophy of mortgaging the future for players who can help win games right now. They traded two first-round picks for CB Jalen Ramsey last year — their 2020 and 2021 first-rounders. Their trade for Stafford will leave them without a first-round pick until 2024.
And while the trade for Ramsey was a quality use of two first-rounders, an argument could be made that this deal for Stafford was even better. Sure, Stafford is 32 years old and is coming off a season with fractured bones in his back, but he’s one of the more talented pure passers in the NFL who profiles as a much better fit for Rams coach Sean McVay’s passing attack.
The Rams are in win-now mode, and while Goff did an admirable job as the starting quarterback since midway through his rookie season, the fact remains that he’s a limited player whose weaknesses have been protected by McVay and who already seems to have hit his ceiling.
There’s no doubt Los Angeles is better equipped to win now, and getting rid of Goff’s contract is good for the future too. The Lions will take on four years and $106.6 million of Goff’s deal; the Rams will eat $21.8 million in dead cap this year but will be rid of Goff’s burdensome deal in 2022.
The Lions, meanwhile, made a calculated move in what’s amounting to Year 1 of a complete rebuild. They could do a lot worse than Goff at quarterback while they work their way back to competitive play, and now armed with an additional two first-round picks over the next two years, they should get there even faster than expected.
Adding first-round picks to your arsenal of assets is always a good thing, but they have to be used effectively. Take Detroit’s first-rounder from a year ago, the No. 3 overall selection. They drafted Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah, who was considered the consensus top cornerback in the class. His rookie-season struggles have sparked concern about whether he’ll ever be the kind of player his scouting report predicted, and if he becomes a bust, it’ll be a draft-day miss that’s hard to recover from.
It doesn’t matter how many first-round picks you have if they all stink on the field.
For the most part, this blockbuster trade was a good deal for both teams. Fans of building through the draft will suggest the Lions got the better haul because they aren’t ready to win now and managed to flip Stafford into two first-rounders, while those who believe there’s never a price too steep to pay for an established high-end starting quarterback will argue the Rams took a big step toward another Super Bowl appearance.
And that’s what makes deals like this great. We can have two winners in a trade, and it looks like that’s what happened here.
So, what are the grades?
-The downgrade from Stafford to Goff will be felt every Sunday, but if Lions fans can hang in there, this deal should pay dividends down the road.
-If this was the first time Los Angeles dealt multiple first-rounders for a player, I’d be a bit weary. But they have a philosophy they believe in and, for the most part, it’s been working. Adding a quarterback of Stafford’s ilk is a no-brainer move. The Rams will be a much better team in 2021 because of it.