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Three years ago, Jared Goff was put in the trash pile. Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay had soured on Goff because of his regression since the Rams lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII during the 2018 season. He felt he needed an upgrade at quarterback despite Goff signing a four-year contract extension averaging $33.5 million per year shortly before the 2019 regular season started.

McVay got his wish on Jan. 30, 2021. A trade was agreed to in which the Rams gave the Detroit Lions a 2022 first-round pick, a 2023 first-round pick and a 2021 third-round pick, as well as Goff, for Matthew Stafford. Goff was thought to be a throw-in or a salary dump who would just be a "bridge" quarterback for Detroit. The Lions insisting that wasn't necessarily the case was considered laughable, especially after a 0-10-1 start to the 2021 season in which Goff was inconsistent.

Goff is getting the last laugh. Not only did he complete 67.3% of his passes for 4,575 yards with 30 touchdowns and 12 interceptions to post a 97.9 passer rating, but he also led the Lions to a 12-5 record and a division title for the first time in 30 years. Goff had a career high in completion percentage, which was the NFL's seventh-best mark. He ranked second and fourth in the league, respectively, in passing yards and touchdown passes.

More importantly, the Lions advanced to the NFC championship game for the first time since the 1991 season. Goff had a measure of vindication by outdueling Stafford in a 24-23 win over the Rams in a wild card playoff game.

Jared Goff
DET • QB • #16
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Prior to losing to the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31, in the NFC title game, reports surfaced that the Lions and Goff's camp would work on a contract extension during the offseason to make him one of the league's highest-paid players. Goff is scheduled to be paid $27,950,064 in 2024, the final year of his contract, on a $32,950,064 salary cap number. The $27,950,064 consists of a $22,950,064 2024 base salary, which includes the $975,000 in escalators Goff earned because of 2023 performance, as well as a $5 million second day of the 2024 league year roster bonus.

Goff expressed his desire to stay in Detroit long term but indicated it was out of his control. "It's not up to me," Goff said. "I love this place, and we'll see what happens as time goes on here. But yeah, I love this place, and love Dan and all the coaches and all my teammates. It's out of my hands, it's up to my representatives and obviously the people upstairs (in the front office)."

Goff could soon be laughing all the way to the bank. The good outing against the Rams ensures that a new Goff deal should surpass Matthew Stafford's 2022 extension. Stafford signed a four-year, $160 million extension averaging $40 million per year, which currently puts him in a tie with quarterbacks Daniel Jones (Giants) and Dak Prescott (Cowboys) as the league's 10th-highest-paid player. The deal has $135 million of guarantees, of which $63 million was fully guaranteed at signing.

Stafford probably had the contract leverage to name his own price on an extension after a stellar postseason in which the Rams won Super Bowl LVI and considering the steep acquisition cost to get him from the Lions. Instead of fully exploiting his leverage, Stafford reportedly wanted a fair deal that would also help the Rams.

Goff should benefit from the quarterback market exploding in 2023. Four different quarterbacks (Jalen Hurts, Eagles; Lamar Jackson, Ravens; Justin Herbert, Chargers and Joe Burrow, Bengals) raised the bar for NFL salaries in 2023 with deals in excess of $50 million per year.

Burrow is the current standard bearer. He received a five-year, $275 million extension averaging $55 million per year in early September as the start of the regular season was approaching. The deal is worth up to $281.25 million thanks to $1.25 million of annual incentives in the extension years (2025 through 2029). Burrow has $219.01 million of salary guarantees, of which $146.51 million was fully guaranteed at signing.

Goff's 2023 season was statistically comparable to his 2018 campaign that led to the Rams making him the league's second-highest-paid player on par with then-Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers following a subpar performance in Super Bowl LIII. In 2018, Goff connected on 64.9% of his passes for 4,688 yards with 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions to compile a 101.1 passer rating.

Goff's camp may feel that putting him in the same place in the NFL salary hierarchy as his first extension is warranted. Herbert is the league's second-highest-paid player. He signed a five-year, $262.5 million extension averaging $52.5 million per year in late July at the start of training camp. The extension's maximum value is $267.5 million because of $2.5 million of base salary escalators each in 2028 and 2029.

Herbert's deal has $193,738,375 in guarantees, of which $133,738,375 is fully guaranteed at signing. The total amount that can become guaranteed is $218,738,375. That's because $25 million of Herbert's unsecured $47 million 2028 base salary is guaranteed for injury on the third day of the 2026 league year (mid-March 2026) and becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2027 league year (mid-March 2027). 

Goff's camp would surely use Herbert's lack of postseason success to help justify a better deal. Herbert had lost his one and only playoff game when he briefly became the league's highest-paid player. The Chargers blew a 27-7 halftime lead to fall to the Jacksonville Jaguars, 31-30, last season in a wild card game. Goff is the only first overall pick besides Peyton Manning to win two or more playoff games with two different franchises.

Whether Detroit's idea of one of the NFL's highest-paid players means that Goff joins Burrow, Herbert, Hurts and Jackson in the $50 million per year club remains to be seen. The average yearly salary of the league's 10 highest-paid players isn't too far behind. It's a little more than $48 million per year with the average contract length being 5.4 new years. The average guarantees for the top 10 are just over $181.5 million with slightly more than $131.25 million fully guaranteed at signing.

The optimal timing for an extension is before Goff's roster bonus is due on March 14. In doing so, this $5 million could become part of the signing bonus Goff would receive in an extension and prorated over the life of the contract up to a maximum of five years, which would help lower his $32,950,064 2024 cap hit.