Matthew Stafford trade analysis: Lions and Rams should be delighted

Matthew Stafford Lions
Reacting to the Rams' blockbuster trade for Matthew Stafford. Photo from USA Today.

In the week-long break between the NFC and AFC Championships games, the NFL is doing plenty to keep us all entertained. Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Detroit Lions have traded quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for Jared Goff and a bounty of draft picks.

While not entirely shocking, as we knew Stafford wished to get out of Detroit, the Rams as a destination may come as a surprise to a few as they were lower down the pecking order for Stafford, behind teams such as the Colts, WFT and the 49ers.

A large reason for that is that Jared Goff’s contract was considered by many as ‘untradeable’. The former number one overall pick is about to begin the start of a four-year, $134 million contract. The Lions don’t have an option to cut Goff without eating a bucket-load of cash in dead cap until 2023.

However, the trade begins to make more sense when you realise that Lions new GM, Brad Holmes, worked in the Rams front office under McVay. Moreover, it is to be believed that Stafford really pushed for a move to the Rams, to live in California and work under offensive mastermind Sean McVay.

Although the Lions were reportedly offered improved trade offers from different teams, such as the Washington Football Team, this Lions front office wanted to do right by Stafford after he had performed so admirably for them over the past eleven years.

Trade breakdown

To summarise. The Lions receive from the Rams:

  • Quarterback, Jared Goff.
  • 2022 first-round pick.
  • 2023 first-round pick.
  • 2021 third-round pick.

The Rams receive from the Lions:

  • Quarterback, Matthew Stafford.

The laissez-faire attitude that the Rams possess towards first-round picks could not be more evident. If the Rams do not acquire a first-round pick in a future trade, the franchise is set to go seven straight years without picking in the first round. Although this may seem like a worst-case scenario for other ball-clubs, the Rams have gone 43-21 in that time-span, winning the division twice and appearing in the Super Bowl in 2017.


Clearly, Rams general manager Les Snead doesn’t value first-round picks as much as other GMs, and he just may be pioneering a new strategy in the world of team-building.

Thus, for the Rams front office, this trade was clearly a win. But what about the Lions?

Lions outlook

From the Lions’ point of view, new head coach Dan Campbell and GM Brad Holmes have navigated this sticky situation perfectly. They handled trading away the team’s best player since Calvin Johnson, and their best-ever quarterback, with as little fuss as possible.

In return, the Lions secured a bounty of picks. Although Les Snead may disagree, first-round picks are still valuable in the NFL and the Lions are now set up perfectly to re-tool on the fly over the next few seasons.

However, there is the factor of Jared Goff who, as we mentioned earlier, still has a monster contract. With the Lions not looking to compete straight away, the Goff contract is not that big of an issue. In fact, you could argue that Goff is the perfect stop-gap quarterback for a team like the Lions. Of course, the contract isn’t great, but the Lions can cut Goff in 2023 and eat nothing in dead cap.

On paper, this is as much of a win-win trade as you can get. The Lions new front office accommodated the release of one of the franchise’s all-time greats and secured a nice compensation package in the process. And the Rams, more specifically Sean McVay, now has a legit gunslinger under-centre, ready to go toe-to-toe with Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray and whoever the 49ers start in 2021.

Stafford in LA

Stafford finished the 2020 season throwing for 4084 yards and 26 touchdowns with a Y/A of 7.7. Despite toiling away on lacklustre Lions offences throughout his time in the league, Stafford has continually put up big numbers, turned up in big moments and carried the team to more victories than they should have. Stylistically and statistically, Stafford is an upgrade over Goff in every department.

For an idea of how Stafford will perform in this high-powered Sean McVay offence, look no further than Matt Ryan in Atlanta under Kyle Shanahan or even Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay under Matt LaFleur.

Stellar offensive coaching can turn bad quarterbacks into good quarterbacks, good quarterbacks into great quarterbacks, and great quarterbacks into MVP level quarterbacks. It is way too early to even hypothesise what Stafford will accomplish in LA under McVay, but one thing is for sure, it’ll be a lot of fun to see a big-armed gunslinger playing under McVay.

Navigating troubled waters in Detroit

If Lions fans aren’t all in on the hire of Dan Campbell that’s understandable. But they should be fired up about securing the former head of college scouting for the L.A. Rams, Brad Holmes.

Holmes played this situation like a pro. For a contemporary comparison, just look down south to Houston and the absolute mess that is swirling around Deshaun Watson‘s departure. These situations very rarely end pleasantly, yet the Lions rookie front office pulled off a win-win trade on the first day of the job. Encouraging signs for Lions fans everywhere.

All in all, this is as close to a win-win trade you can get in the NFL and both fanbases should be content with where they stand on the eve of the 2021 off-season.

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About Matthew Bowen 150 Articles
Matthew is an MA history student at Swansea University. He is an avid supporter of the San Francisco 49ers and Liverpool FC. Twitter: @MatthewJBowen7

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