Detroit is dealing QB Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for two future first-round picks, a third-round pick and QB Jared Goff, per sources. Two former No. 1 overall picks trading places in the first blockbuster NFL trade of 2021.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 31, 2021
An era ends in Detroit
The trade ends a 12-year tenure in Detroit for Stafford, after team and player reportedly agreed it would be better for everyone if the team traded away the former first overall pick.
Stafford will leave the Lions as their all-time leader in passing yards (45,109) and touchdowns (282), and will now join a Rams team that seemed a good quarterback away from being a true contender this year. For years, the Lions have languished around Stafford, but the passer now plays for one of the NFL’s top young coaches in Sean McVay with a strong offensive supporting cast and one of the best defenses in the NFL.
A trade to Los Angeles will also put Stafford in the same city as his old high school pal and teammate, Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. Get ready to hear that fact a lot on broadcasts.
Per The Athletic’s Chris Burke, the Lions had seven or eight teams bidding at least a first-round pick for Stafford, but the Rams’ package was the clear winner.
Stafford is under contract for the next two seasons, with salary-cap hits of $20 million in 2021 and $23 million in 2022. The Rams could eke out some extra cap space with an extension for Stafford, something The Athletic’s Jordan Rodrigue says could happen.
With Stafford gone, the Lions are set to enter full rebuild mode under new head coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes, with three extra draft picks and $14 million in new cap space. The trade carries extra significance for Holmes, who was previously the Rams’ director of college scouting.
The Lions already hold the No. 7 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, and this move could give them the ammunition to move up in the draft if the covet quarterback prospects like Ohio State’s Justin Fields and BYU’s Zach Wilson.
In the meantime, the Lions likely already have a starting quarterback for next season.
Jared Goff gets a new start
This trade also ends a five-year tenure for Goff in Los Angeles. In this case, the Rams are likely a little happier to see their former top overall pick go.
Under head coach Sean McVay, Goff led the Rams to a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl berth in the 2018 season, but his performance has noticeably declined in the years since. This season, Goff posted 3,952 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions with 7.2 yards per pass attempt, the latter his worst mark since his rookie year. His health was also a factor in the playoffs for the Rams, as surgery for a broken right thumb limited his availability in the wild-card round and loomed large as the Rams fell in the divisional round.
By the end of the season, McVay wasn’t even committing to starting Goff in the 2021 season, and now the team is moving on.
Goff’s four-year, $134 million contract with a record $110 million guaranteed signed in 2019 likely nullified his value on the trade market, but the Lions should be fine with it as they sort out their future.
Rams part with first-rounders yet again
In trading away two more first-rounders for Stafford, the Rams have continued one of the NFL’s wildest streaks.
The last time the Rams selected a player in the first round was ... Goff in 2016. That pick came via a trade that sent the Rams’ 2017 first-rounder to the Tennessee Titans. Since then, the Rams have also traded away their first-round picks in 2018 (Brandin Cooks), 2019 (traded down for more picks), 2020 (Jalen Ramsey), 2021 (Ramsey again) and now 2022 and 2023 for Stafford.
Barring a trade back into the first round in the next three drafts, the Rams are now positioned to not have a first-round draft pick for seven seasons. Getting out of Goff’s contract and giving McVay a veteran quarterback like Stafford is big for the Rams, but it’s still a gamble.
How much is Deshaun Watson going to cost?
Stafford was a major name on the quarterback trade market, but he wasn’t the biggest.
The Houston Texans have insisted they don’t want to trade away Deshaun Watson, but the star quarterback seems to be aggressively pushing for a way out of the franchise that has so badly bungled the past year.
If the Texans relent and look into dealing Watson, the Stafford trade underscores how valuable an asset they have on their hands. If Stafford is worth two first-rounders and a starting QB on a bad contract, the bidding for Watson should start at three first-rounders easily, and likely well more than that.
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