The wild 2021 NFL quarterback carousel officially started moving Saturday night as the Rams and Lions agreed to a blockbuster trade that will send Matthew Stafford to Los Angeles and Jared Goff to Detroit.
Reports surfaced earlier Saturday that the Bears were one of many teams making a push for Stafford, but such a trade always seemed unlikely because the Lions and Bears are both in the NFC North.
When the bidding was over, this is what the trade looked like:
2021 third round pick
2022 first round pick
2023 first round pick
So what does this all mean?
Here are the implications on the Rams, Lions and Bears:
What it means for the Rams…
The Rams pulled off a miracle here, because with salary cap limitations and the lack of a 2021 first round pick, it didn’t seem like they could possibly get an upgrade at the quarterback position via trade. Somehow, Rams general manager Les Snead not only managed to do so, but he also (mostly) got out of Jared Goff’s awful contract.
Two first round picks are a steep price to pay, but they are in 2022 and 2023 and if the Rams are good with Stafford (which they should be), then those will be late first round picks.
Would you trade a late-first round pick for Stafford? Yes. Would you trade an additional late-first round pick if you could also get out of Goff’s contract? Yes.
The only catch is that the Rams still must eat $22.2 million in bonuses as a 2021 cap hit, which makes me wonder if they’ll restructure Stafford’s contract, similar to what the Bears did with Nick Foles last year. That could soften the blow in 2021, because Los Angeles doesn’t have much financial wiggle room right now.
What it means for the Lions…
By taking Goff’s contract, the Lions likely received a better offer than they were getting from other teams. And remember, the Rams still keep the bonuses on that contract, which means it’s not a horrendous contract for the Lions. In fact, there’s now an out in 2022 that would save over 50 percent in cap space and $10 million in cash, which means if Goff continues to struggle in 2021, he might not be in Detroit for more than one season.
That’s important to remember in the NFL Draft this year. Acquiring Goff shouldn’t take the Lions out of the running for drafting a quarterback at No. 7 overall. They are in rebuild mode and it makes sense that new general manager Brad Holmes – who just came from the Rams – would pair a veteran he’s familiar with (Goff) with a young rookie quarterback for the future.
The downside of this trade for the Lions is that they only received a third-round pick in this year’s draft and will take on a larger cap hit at the quarterback position in 2021 for a worse option than Stafford. But the Lions aren’t trying to win in 2021 so they can justify doing so when they added extra first round picks in 2022 and 2023.
What it means for the Bears…
Well, they didn’t get Stafford, who would have been an obvious upgrade at the quarterback position. According to multiple reports, the Bears were one of the teams discussing a trade with the Lions, but they were operating from a disadvantageous position because they are in the same division as Detroit. The Bears likely would have had to up their offer, just as the Rams had to up their offer to convince the Lions to take Goff.
But every quarterback off the board is at least a small loss for the Bears, who will continue to be aggressive in upgrading the position.
On the other hand, you’d probably rather face Goff twice a year than Stafford, although Goff has won his last two meetings against the Bears. As it stands, the Bears will face Stafford and the Rams in Los Angeles in 2021 anyway.
As I mentioned before, I don’t think this trade precludes the Lions from drafting a quarterback in April, but perhaps Detroit won’t be as aggressive in that pursuit in the first round. If that’s the case, it could help the Bears a little bit if they are interested in trading up.