This blockbuster trade involving Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff is quite the tricky one. Jared Goff, 26, is a former No. 1 pick, two-time Pro Bowler and one-time first-team All-Pro player. Goff has a record of 3-3 in the postseason, including an appearance in Super Bowl LIII. Matthew Stafford, 32, is also a former No. 1 pick, and a one-time Pro Bowler who has never made an All-Pro team. Stafford is 0–3 in the postseason and has never even won his division.Yet it is the Rams who are trading Goff, two additional first round picks, and a third round pick in order to get Stafford. The weirdest part of it all: The Rams actually won the trade.
Twelve seasons after they drafted him, the Lions are moving on from Matthew Stafford. The Lions will now receive Jared Goff, a younger quarterback who has experienced more postseason success. Through his 5 years with the Rams though, Goff was a beneficiary of a loaded roster. The Rams rarely ever depended on Goff to go win them the game. When the Rams needed Goff the most, he failed to show up, as the team only scored three points in Super Bowl LIII. Throughout his time in LA, Goff wasn’t asked to take many risks with the football, as he mostly threw shorter passes and relied on his star receivers such as Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp to create yardage after catches. The bulk of the Rams offense came from their potent rushing attack. During the three years Goff made the playoffs, the Rams ranked top 10 in rushing yards per game behind All-Pro running back Todd Gurley. The other two years of Goff’s career, the Rams were in the bottom third in rushing yards per game and missed the playoffs.
Goff’s job will only become more difficult, as his supporting cast will be much worse in Detroit. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr., the Lions top wide receivers, are free agents and likely to leave. The Lions did bring in a new head coach and general manager this offseason, so maybe this is the fresh start the organization needs to become competitive again. The 2021 draft class contains four quarterbacks likely to go inside the first 10 picks. The Lions, who pick at No. 7, must decide whether they want to stick with Goff for the future, or if they want to draft another QB to compete for the starting job. In addition to Goff, the Lions received three draft picks, two of them first rounders. If the Rams end up falling short of expectations and turn in a losing season in 2022 or 2023, the Lions will become huge winners of this trade. However, judging by the Rams’ current roster, these picks are likely to be in the mid to late 20s where finding franchise players becomes exponentially more difficult.
The Rams got the high risk–high reward end of the trade. Let’s start with the reward. For over a decade now Matthew Stafford has been one of the best pocket passers in the league. Stafford'‘s success has come despite a terrible running game and only three 1000-yard receivers during his time in Detroit. Next season in L.A. will be Stafford’s best in terms of the offensive weapons at his disposal, not to mention the No. 2ranked scoring defense the Rams boasted last year. Additionally, Stafford has been one of the most clutch quarterbacks in NFL history. Since entering the league in 2009, Stafford has 31 fourth quarter comebacks (best in the league) and 38 game winning drives (second-best). Goff only had eight game winning-drives in his five years as quarterback for the Rams. With Stafford as his quarterback, Sean McVay’s playbook will open up. The Rams finally have a quarterback they can trust in pressure situations, a luxury they haven’t had since Kurt Warner in 2001.
However, the Rams are also taking a large risk by making this trade. In their 2019 deal for cornerback Jalen Ramsey, they traded their 2020 and 2021 first-round draft picks. Now they have traded their 2022 and 2023 first-round picks. While the practice of trading away multiple firsts has become more common, it can be very dangerous. Take the Houston Texans, for example. Before the 2019 season, the Texans traded away their 2020 and 2021 first-round picks to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills. The Texans were betting that they would be competitive, and those picks would not have as much value as the two players they were receiving. This past year, however, the Texans were riddled with injuries, poor front office management, and suspensions, leading to a 4–12 record worthy of the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL draft. That extremely valuable selection will be made by the Dolphins (10-6) in April. While that exact scenario may be a worst possible outcome for the Rams, it is still an example of the danger of this trade. In a league in which any team can be hit with injuries, suspensions, or even a pandemic in any given season, trading away future assets can be very dangerous. Although, if Matthew Stafford turns out to be the last piece of the Rams’ Super Bowl puzzle, it’ll be well worth it.
Photo: Julian H. Gonzalez/Detroit Free Press/Imagn Content Services