For a brief moment on Saturday night, the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams made everyone outside of Kansas City and Tampa Bay forget there's still a Super Bowl to be played, reportedly agreeing to terms on a blockbuster trade to kick off the 2021 offseason. Former No. 1 overall pick Matthew Stafford is headed to the West Coast after 12 years in Motown, and another former No. 1, the much-maligned Jared Goff, is headed to Detroit to replace him.
The trade terms: Los Angeles gets Stafford, a clear upgrade at quarterback ahead of an obvious bid for an immediate title run, in exchange for Goff, a 2022 first-round pick, 2023 first-rounder, as well as a 2021 third-rounder.
Who won the deal? Who lost it? And which other players and teams around the league will benefit -- or hurt -- because of it? Here's the rundown:
Duh. He wouldn't have played good soldier for more than a decade in Detroit if he didn't appreciate the chance to lead the Lions, but this was past due. The Lions are about to rebuild (again). Plus, this isn't just any old change of scenery. Stafford now gets to call sunny California his home, with Sean McVay as his head coach, and all kinds of promising weapons around him, not to mention a stout defense. His shot to make a true postseason impact should come sooner rather than later.
We're putting McVay instead of the Rams here, because L.A. as a whole still has to reckon with the fact it might never make a first-round pick again (hyperbole, yes, but the way Les Snead operates, who knows?). It also has to reckon with the fact that Stafford, while a clear and obvious upgrade over Goff, has rarely been a consistently great QB. He's good, no doubt, and the Rams' supporting cast should bring out the best in him, but we're not talking about a top-five or even top-eight option here. Still, if you're McVay, you have every reason to do jumping jacks. Goff has been a skittish, immobile starter way more than people realize. Stafford lets it rip and guts it out. If everything rolls in L.A.'s favor, he'll be making a solid playoff run in 2021.
Don't mistake this for something it's not. The Texans are an unmatched mess. And, more importantly, the Stafford compensation should not be a referendum on the expected trade value of Deshaun Watson. (The Rams giving up three picks, including two firsts, for Stafford was as much, if not more, about unloading Goff's $134 million dead weight of a contract than upgrading under center.) All that said, this deal is out there now, and the optics -- representative of Stafford's actual value or not -- will almost certainly benefit Houston if it's indeed listening to offers for Watson. Put it this way: No one calling about Watson can prove that the Rams dumped so much in the Stafford trade in order to offload Goff; they can argue otherwise (and rightfully so), but the reality is, the value of erasing Goff's contract and the value of Stafford on his own cannot be fully de-tangled. That means, if the Texans are smart (big "if"), they'll likely be able to milk just a little bit more for Watson in a prospective trade. At this point, you're probably talking three, if not four first-rounders as a starting point.
Look, getting Goff isn't exactly the thing you want to start your offseason with, but he's not nobody at QB, and his arrival shouldn't stop Detroit from considering a QB early in the draft anyway. And then there's the pick haul for Stafford, who wasn't going to be around for a competitive window anyway. Two firsts and a third to deal with Goff's salary for the short term? Easy call. The Lions still have to hit on those picks to turn it around (and, as we've seen with other clubs, like the Raiders, that's easier said than done), but they're at least coming away with full pockets here.
If Goff couldn't make it work under the warm glow of his home-state Cali skies and the innovative tutelage of McVay, just wait until he walks into chilly Motor City to play for Dan "Kneecaps" Campbell. It'll be kind of fun to see him suited up in honolulu blue, but even that sight might not last more than a few weeks if he's going to be playing alongside an overhauled, long-term project of a roster. Unless he gets dealt again, with Detroit simply serving as a mediator to absorb his big money, Goff is in trouble.
The Colts have no shortage of QBs to target in the wake of Philip Rivers' retirement, but none was a better short- and potentially long-term fit than Stafford. Indy is built to win now, had more than enough cap space to handle (and even renegotiate) Stafford's deal, and isn't in a great spot to add one of this year's top rookie QBs. Getting Stafford would've been their cleanest path to contending again in 2021, and beyond. Now, they're left to sort through the other names on the block -- most of which will require rehabilitation projects (see: Carson Wentz, Sam Darnold) -- or bank on a mid-tier free agent if they're not going to go wild with a draft-day trade.
San Francisco 49ers (for now)
We say "for now" because, like the Colts, they would've really benefited from plugging Stafford into their playoff-caliber system. But they've also got a better Plan B, in that their 12th overall pick in the draft could still net them either a top QB prospect or serve as a big asset in a move up for a Jimmy Garoppolo replacement. Maybe Sam Darnold's an option here, and maybe, just maybe, if the Patriots don't come calling, Garoppolo is as well. But Stafford just felt like such a nice fit for Kyle Shanahan.