Initial reactions are emerging regarding the trade that will, as of March 17, send quarterback Matthew Stafford from the Lions to the Rams for quarterback Jared Goff, a pair of first-round picks, and a third-round pick. As one executive with a team not connected to the trade opined late Saturday night, the move “reeks of desperation” by the Rams.
In the two weeks since the Rams exited the playoffs in the divisional round, the team made no secret of the fact that it had fallen out of love with quarterback Jared Goff. From coach Sean McVay’s somewhat cryptic comments after the loss to the Packers to McVay’s more pointed comments the next day indicating that Goff’s days in L.A. could be numbered to G.M. Les Snead’s more recent invocation of the “beautiful mystery” catch phrase coined by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, it was clear that the Rams were done with Goff.
And indeed they were.
On the surface, it looks like the Lions got a tremendous haul for Stafford, a soon-to-be-33-year-old quarterback with a history of injuries (to his credit, he played through most of them) and no history of postseason success. Buried not far beneath the surface is the reality that the Rams combined their acquisition of Stafford into a Brock Osweiler-style hot-potato trade, in which the team gives up value to unload a very bad contract.
The Lions didn’t get two ones and a three for Stafford. They got two ones and a three for Stafford plus taking on Goff’s contract. Basically, the Lions got extra for Stafford by taking Goff, who has $43.25 million in fully-guaranteed payments over the next two years, much of which has no offset attached to it. The Lions, despite any other offers they may have received for Stafford, got two ones and a three only because they took a terrible contract off the Rams’ books.
From the Rams’ perspective, it’s not a gamble as much as it is an effort to make chicken salad out of chicken crap. They paid Goff when they shouldn’t have paid him. And so, to unload a player in whom they invested two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and a third-round pick in a 2016 trade with the Titans for the right to draft Goff, the Rams gave up another two first-round picks and a third-round pick, and they acquired Stafford.
So what did the Rams get in return for everything they gave up for Goff and everything they gave up to get rid of his ill-advised second contract? An older quarterback with a career record of 74-90-1 in the regular season and 0-3 in the playoffs.
Time will tell whether offensive genius Sean McVay can get more out of Stafford than others have gotten out of him in Detroit over the past 12 years. If they can continue to compete in the NFC West and the NFC postseason, winning one or more postseason games and competing for championships during Stafford’s time with the team, that will make the trade seem less problematic for L.A. If Stafford falters in L.A., the Rams will have completely blown it — all because they gave Goff a market-level long-term deal when they should have waited.
That may not be the end of the investment the Rams must make. Stafford is under contract for only two more years. What will it take to keep him? Actually, Stafford may want something more now, given that he’s due to make only $20 million in 2021 and $23 million in 2022.
How can the Rams refuse to give Stafford more, now or later? By investing so much in getting him (and in getting rid of Goff), Stafford has all the leverage. The Rams, at some point, will have to break the bank for Stafford to justify the trade they had to make after they gave all that money to Goff.
By tying the unloading of Goff into the acquisition of Stafford, the Rams have managed to somewhat obscure the final price of trading up for and then paying Goff. The Rams now need Stafford to play at a very high level in order to make the outcome of their time with Goff seem like something other than the abject disaster that it was.