The NFL's much-anticipated game of quarterback musical chairs began late Saturday night, with the Detroit Lions reportedly agreeing to send Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for first-round picks in 2022 and 2023, a third-rounder in 2021, and Jared Goff. Some quick thoughts ...
1. Stafford gets a chance to revive his career. He's always been a solid quarterback, but he's also been stuck with the Lions. He turns 33 on Feb. 7, and he'll get a chance to play for a Rams team with a win-now roster and a terrific head coach and play-caller in Sean McVay. Stafford also has a home in Newport Beach, California, where the weather tends to be a bit nicer than it is in Detroit.
2. The Lions have hit the reset button, and they had to. They've got a new head coach in Dan Campbell, a new general manager in Brad Holmes - who, incidentally, joined Detroit from the Rams - and they have to restock a roster that Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn packed with expensive ex-New England Patriots players over the past three years. This deal gives Detroit the draft capital to build a foundation. The hard part, as always, will be using those assets to select good players.
3. The Rams did the best they could to escape the bad contract they gave Goff in September 2019. Why? Because he hasn't been all that great the last two seasons, tossing 29 interceptions in 31 games with an expected points added per play that ranks 24th in the league during that span. Goff has guarantees totaling $43 million coming his way over the next two years, according to Over the Cap. None of those guarantees offset, reports NFL Media's Tom Pelissero, so the Rams wouldn't have received a cap credit if they'd cut Goff and he signed elsewhere. All of that now lands on the Lions' books.
And guess what? Stafford is also under contract for a total of $43 million over the next two years ($20 million in 2021, $23 million in 2022), though none of that is guaranteed.
4. Detroit will take on $17.8 million in dead money for trading Stafford, according to Pelissero. But it doesn't matter because they're rebuilding, and Goff is essentially their bridge QB for the next two years. Unless, as Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio suggested, Detroit did this just to swallow the cap hit in exchange for draft resources, much like the Cleveland Browns did when they traded for Brock Osweiler in 2017. The difference: The Browns cut Osweiler before he played a down for them and ate $16 million on him. The Lions are now on the hook to pay Goff a heck of a lot more across the next two years.
5. The Rams have a rather complete roster and an opportunity to compete for a Super Bowl right away. This deal gives them an upgrade at quarterback and a chance to get out after this year if Stafford isn't a fit. Moving on from Goff before 2023 would have been prohibitively expensive.
6. The Rams basically have two years to win a title. This is why:
Goff will still count for $22.2 million in dead money in 2021, and running back Todd Gurley will take up $8.4 million in cap room, according to Over the Cap, even though he last played for the Rams in 2019. Understand: Dead money is bonus money already paid. So while L.A. isn't paying Goff or Gurley anymore, it still has to account for the pricey bonuses it already gave them.
7. The salary cap is expected to drop to $180 million in 2021 due to the pandemic's impact on revenues. The Rams are currently scheduled to have roughly $140 million tied up in six players, plus two others no longer on the roster.
8. Goff would have counted $34.95 million against the cap in 2021; Stafford plus Goff's dead money adds up to $42.2 million. But, again, the Rams rid themselves of Goff's guarantees and get a better QB.
9. Thanks to an adjustment to the Rooney Rule, L.A. will get compensatory third-round picks in both 2021 and 2022 because the Lions hired Holmes. The Rams will also get a compensatory third-rounder in 2021 because they lost pass-rusher Dante Fowler in free agency, and they're getting a 2021 third-round pick in the Goff-Stafford trade. L.A. hasn't had a first-round pick since it took Goff first overall in 2016, and it's now unloaded its first-rounders for 2022 and 2023 in this deal. The pressure is on the Rams to find some value in the middle rounds.
Dom Cosentino is a senior features writer at theScore.