Matthew Stafford has spent his entire NFL career trying to rebuild the Detroit Lions franchise — he was due for an upgrade and he just found one. In a blockbuster trade, the Lions sent Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for the Rams’ first-round draft picks in 2022 and 2023, a third-round pick in 2021, and quarterback Jared Goff, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora confirmed. Stafford moves on from a Lions team he struggled to reach the postseason with to a Rams team led by coach Sean McVay that has advanced to at least the divisional round and once the Super Bowl in two of the last three seasons.
Stafford and the Lions had mutually agreed to part ways earlier in the week, with the team moving in a new direction under new general manager Brad Holmes (who until earlier this offseason was the Rams’ director of college scouting) and head coach Dan Campbell. Stafford heads to a ready-made contender in the Rams, who have had one of the NFL’s best defenses for several seasons and had previously been one of the league’s most explosive offenses before Goff’s backslide over the past two years.
Stafford will get to work in an offensive system that has been friendly to quarterbacks, behind an offensive line that excels in pass protection, and with quality pass-catchers in Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, and Van Jefferson. Goff, meanwhile, will head to a rebuilding Lions team, and he may not be long for Detroit, given his contract situation.
The Rams signed Goff to a four-year, $130 million contract extension after his third NFL season, and will take a significant dead-money hit onto their books after making this deal. Goff will count for $22.2 million on LA’s books in 2021 while he is playing for Detroit, while the Rams inherit the two years and $43 million remaining on Stafford’s contract. One additional note to add about Stafford’s contract with the Rams came from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. The expectation is that Stafford will not require a contract extension as part of this deal. He will play out the remaining two years for $34 million on his contract with the Rams.
Similarly, Stafford will count for $17.8 million on the Lions’ books in 2021, and Detroit will inherit the four years and $106.6 million remaining on Goff’s deal. Crucially, though, there is no guaranteed money left on Goff’s contract, so the Lions will be able to move on from him after this season if they so choose.
The Rams, after trading for Stafford, will go seven consecutive seasons without making a first-round pick. They traded their 2016 and 2017 firsts to move up for Goff in the 2016 draft. They traded their 2018 first for wide receiver Brandin Cooks, their 2019 first-rounder to the Falcons for second and third-round picks, and their 2020 and 2021 first-rounders to the Jaguars for Jalen Ramsey. Stafford, then, better be worth the price, because the Rams have continued mortgaging their future to find success in the near-term.
Stafford — who spent a decade in Detroit and departs as the Lions’ all-time leader in completions (3,898) passing yards (45,109), passing touchdowns (282), and quarterback wins (74) — took the franchise to three playoff appearances in his tenure, but the team failed to win a playoff game, going 0-3. The Rams will be counting on him having much greater success in LA than he did in Detroit. They have the roster to set him up for that success, having made the playoffs in three of four seasons under Sean McVay and advancing to the Super Bowl in 2018 before ultimately falling to the New England Patriots.
Goff’s struggles over the past two seasons led to the team taking a step backward, missing the playoffs in 2019, and then getting knocked out in the first round in 2020. That backslide spurred interest in finding a way to move on and upgrade from Goff, which they accomplished with this trade.
For Goff, it is an unceremonious end to his tenure with the Rams. He struggled badly in 2019 and parts of 2020 and was not named the starter for the team’s wild-card game despite feeling he was healthy enough to play just weeks after breaking his thumb. Goff eventually entered the game due to an injury to starter John Wolford and led the team to a victory over the division rival Seahawks, but was unable to follow it up with another over the Green Bay Packers the following week.
Now, just two seasons removed from taking his team to the Super Bowl, he’s been traded away and seen his team pay a significant premium to get someone else under center. He’ll have a chance to re-establish himself in Detroit under Campbell and new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, but with the team clearly entering the early stages of a rebuild and his contract an onerous one, he’ll have to take a significant step forward to carve out a place in the team’s long-term plans. Otherwise, he may find himself on the open market following next season.