Matthew Stafford Trade: What Does It All Mean?

By Tayyib Abu

The first significant offseason domino fell yesterday. Once the new NFL year begins in March, Matthew Stafford will officially be a Los Angeles Ram. The Lions legend is heading west to pursue his championship dream. In return, the Detroit Lions receive two future first-round picks, a third-rounder in 2021 and Jared Goff. It is a blockbuster trade that sets the table for the rest of the close-season. After two weeks in the job Lions GM Brad Holmes administered one of the biggest transactions in recent memory. Now it’s time to assess the state of play for both teams.

The Rams Are All In

Matthew Stafford
Credit: Wally Skalij (Los Angeles Times)

The Rams are now in a Superbowl or bust situation. To give two future first-round picks as well as take on more cap issues to get Stafford, Les Snead gambled the future to win now. The Rams’ roster is now very top-heavy in terms of payroll. Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, Cooper Kupp and Andrew Whitworth are all high earners. The top six contracts on the Rams roster amount to an eye-watering $109.9 million. Those numbers will quickly become a noose on the Rams if they are not competitive in a tough division.

Moreover, the lack of first-round picks in the future places a vice-like grip on the Rams’ ability to draft premier talent. Yes, the Rams have hit home-runs in the late rounds. However, at some point, Los Angeles will need to replace its stars. And  for most teams, that happens in the first round of a draft.

Sean McVay clearly wanted a new toy for his offense, while Les Snead obviously felt they were a top quarterback away from being a contender. Although they knew they had to sweeten the deal for a rebuilding Lions team to take Goff’s contract, the Rams were desperate to land Stafford. The Rams paid a heavy price; nevertheless, they landed their man. Sometimes the best card players are the most confident players at the table. Les Snead and Sean McVay like their hand; that’s why they’ve pushed all their chips into the middle. Only time will tell if it works.

Stafford Gets His Dream Move

Matthew Stafford
Credit: Rick Osentoski (Associated Press)

Matthew Stafford wanted to come to Los Angeles. His brother in law works on the Rams coaching staff, his childhood friend Clayton Kershaw plays for the Dodgers. He even bought a house in California last year. Stafford moves to a legitimate championship contender after spinning his tyres for 12 years in the Motor City. His time in Detroit got wasted as bluffer after bluffer came into the building promising to build a team around the former Georgia Bulldog. It never happened; instead, Stafford needed to carry a team to competitiveness despite never having an offensive line, run-game or tight-end. The Rams possess all of that on their roster.

The other factor for Stafford was Sean McVay. The NFL world views McVay as one of the best offensive minds in the game, Stafford wanted to go to a team that makes the most of his talents. Once Matt Patricia left, Stafford got back to playing at his best. The four games he completed under interim Darrell Bevell, Stafford posted a passer rating north of 100. He was back to throwing deep and attacking the field vertically. There is nothing to be concerned about for Rams fans regarding Stafford’s arm; it is still a cannon. Sean McVay spoke about calling more shot-plays with Stafford; this move opens up the playbook for the fifth year head coach. He can get this Rams offense back to those heady 2017-2018 levels.

What About Jared Goff?

Matthew Stafford
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas (USA Today Sports)

Jared Goff swaps sunny Los Angeles for blue-collar Detroit. He arrives on the shores of Lake Michigan with his confidence on the floor. The franchise that traded everything to draft him gave up a ton to get rid of him. That would dent most player’s confidence, and you can understand it if Goff feels aggrieved.

There is one significant advantage Goff owns however – the ball is literally in his hands. No Lions fan believes Goff is the future; in reality, the football cognoscenti’s entirety doesn’t believe in him either. Everyone is down on Goff; therefore, it is the perfect opportunity to silence the critics. Goff needs to banish the Holywood blues and go to Detroit with the right work ethic and a chip on his shoulder.

If he wants to revive his career, Goff must knuckle down with offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn. The Lions right now might not see Goff as the future; but this 16 game trial provides him with the perfect opportunity to change everyone’s mind. The Lions can cut him after 2022 with no cap implications, but at 26 Goff isn’t old. His future is uncertain, but luckily for him, it is also in the palm of his hands.

Where does this leave the Lions?

Matthew Stafford
Credit: Detroit Lions

The Lions got multiple first-rounders to turbocharge their rebuild under new head coach Dan Campbell. It also provides them flexibility if they want to trade up for a quarterback prospect in 2021 or beyond. The Lions also get to evaluate a quarterback for a year as they rebuild. If Goff proves himself then it can almost be considered a bonus of the trade. And if not, the Lions still own the ammunition to draft their signal caller of the future.

What Detroit must do is stay patient; they need to trust their process. Successful teams get creative in the draft, and the Lions own a good selection of picks for three years. There is no need to rush and panic – the Lions’ first building blocks are in place. It is a positive start for the new front office of Brad Holmes and John Dorsey.



Tayyib is an avid NFL fan and, as a follower of the detroit lions, is a permanent resident in the honolulu blue heartbreak hotel. writing football articles since 2019, tayyib loves everything about the sport except that wins are not a qb stat. follow him on twitter @TayyibABU1