In a pre-Super Bowl blockbuster, the Los Angeles Rams have parted ways with former first overall pick Jared Goff, sending him to Detroit along with a pair of first rounders and a third-round pick for longtime Lions signal-caller Matthew Stafford. This is an unprecedented offseason for the most important position in football, with NFL insider Adam Schefter projecting as many as 18 teams changing quarterbacks. Goff and Stafford are the first dominoes to fall and leaves us with some burning questions that will be answered over the next few months.
How Does This Return Affect Deshaun Watson?
Earlier this week, the Houston Texans introduced David Culley as their new head coach and new general manager Nick Caserio reiterated that the team has “zero interest” in trading their beleaguered quarterback. Watson, on the other hand, is doing everything he can to force their hand. The haul Detroit got for Stafford, who is eight years older than Watson, looks astronomical, but Los Angeles was also paying more to offload Goff’s contract and future first-round picks (Los Angeles gave up their 2022 and 2023 first rounders) are valued less than first-round picks for the upcoming draft. On paper, this looks like Houston would command a lot more for Watson, but there should only be a marginal price increase, especially since Houston will command (at the very least) a first-round pick in April’s draft as part of the return.
Will the Rams Ever Have a First-round Pick Again?
Los Angeles has not had a first-round draft pick since they traded up with Tennessee to select Goff first overall in 2016. They surrendered their 2016 and 2017 first rounders to facilitate that trade, traded their 2018 first-round pick to the Patriots for Brandin Cooks, traded out of the first round with Atlanta in 2019 and surrendered their top picks in 2020 and 2021 for Jalen Ramsey. With their 2022 and 2023 first-round selections now belonging to Detroit, unless Los Angeles trades up, they will not own a first-round pick for seven consecutive drafts. Along with the lack of talent after the opening round, the Rams also lose another year of control for a talented player as only players selected in the first round come with a fifth-year option. The Rams are now three years removed from their Super Bowl loss to New England and their window is already starting to close. Not being able to add top-end talent via the draft only slams the window faster.
How Will the Rams Navigate Around the Salary Cap?
The Rams, Eagles, Falcons and Saints are all in a new type of salary cap hell and Stafford does not provide much in terms of relief for Los Angeles. When the Stafford trade becomes official, the Rams will be roughly $30 million over the cap and will need to work around the clock to restructure some players and release some veterans, like Michal Brockers or Andrew Whitworth, before the new league year begins on March 17. Stafford helps the Rams continue to be in win-now mode, but with limited draft capital and cash, is his presence enough to get them back to the big game?
How Does Jared Goff Fit Into Detroit’s Long-Term Plans?
Stafford provided stability to the quarterback position in Detroit for 12 seasons and is the franchise’s only Pro Bowl quarterback since 1971. While he was never able to win a playoff game for Detroit, that also isn’t necessarily his fault either. Goff, who went from being potential draft bust to promising quarterback to turnover-prone underachiever, looks like a stop-gap option for the Lions at the moment. He will be their quarterback in 2021 and likely in 2022, but his future beyond that is murky as Detroit can save $23.85 million in cap space by releasing him in 2023. Goff will surely be their guy this year, but it shouldn’t be a surprise if the Lions take a quarterback early in the 2022 draft, especially if Goff flops in the Motor City.