The first blockbuster trade of the 2021 NFL season has just taken place between the Detroit Lions and the Los Angeles Rams.
Approximately one week after Adam Schefter broke the news that Detroit and Matthew Stafford would part ways, the Lions and the Rams agreed to a deal that involved a quarterback swap, as well as picks going from LA to Detroit.
•Rams’ 2022 first-round pick
•Rams’ 2023 second-round pick
•Rams’ 2021 third-round pick
According to ESPN, seven or eight teams offered first-round picks to the Lions in exchange for Stafford, but it was the Rams who gazumped all the other offers, essentially dealing a first and a third-rounder to get out from under the guaranteed money from Jared Goff’s contract.
At first glance, this trade seems like a landslide win for the Lions.
They get two first-rounders and a third-round pick for a player who was publicly being shopped around, as well as a chance to rehabilitate a former number one overall pick in Goff, without the expectation of delivering immediate results, while they undergo their long-overdue rebuild.
However, we should be applauding the Rams.
Too often, NFL franchises fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy (continuing a behaviour as a result of previously invested resources).
It would be very easy for the Rams to press on with Goff as their quarterback, given the resources not only spent to trade up in the 2016 NFL Draft to select him, but the massive contract extension they gave him in 2019 (complete with $110 million in guarantees).
This move is bold, but it also gives them a much better chance of getting back to the Super Bowl.
Jared Goff is on his way to the Motor City (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
By making this trade, the Rams have moved $43 million (A$56 million) in guarantees onto the Lions’ books and free up $12.75 million (A$17 million) in cap room in 2021.
They initially incur a $20 million cap hit by taking on Stafford (per Over the Cap). Once the trade is official at the turn of the new league year, expect the Rams and Stafford to come to terms on a new deal with fresh guarantees.
Stafford has no more guaranteed money on his contract, and a restructure would create space for the Rams – a win for both parties.
So why have the Rams decided to get the Goff contract off the books? Simply put, almost any success they have had has been in spite of Goff, rather than as a result of his play.
Since Goff’s draft year in 2016, the Rams have ranked second in the NFL in defensive EPA (expected points added) per play, behind only Baltimore.
The Lions rank 31st over the same period. During this time, the Rams rank 15th in total offensive EPA per play, while the Lions rank 16th.
Now here is where it gets interesting – the Lions rank ninth in EPA per dropback, but 31st in EPA per rush attempt, while the Rams rank 17th per dropback but tenth in EPA per rush attempt.
The data tells you what your eyeballs should have already told you: the Rams’ success under McVay has been predicated on an elite defence, a top tier run blocking team, and Sean McVay hiding Jared Goff within his creative offensive scheme.
On the other hand, the Lions have hung Stafford out to dry, failing to provide him with an offensive line, a running game, or any semblance of a defence over the past five years. They have been the most pass-heavy team in the NFL since 2016, and over 55 per cent of the Lions’ pass attempts have occurred while trailing.
Teams know that the Lions will have to throw the ball, and yet Stafford has still been able to produce at a high level.
Now McVay will have the chance to expand his playbook and push the ball further downfield.
Goff has a career average depth of target of 7.5, while Stafford has averaged 8.2 over the past five seasons. Whether Goff is the franchise quarterback of the future of the Lions remains to be seen.
I don’t believe that he is, and once the guaranteed money is gone (in 2023), it would not surprise me to see him traded or released. The Lions could also save $10 million (A$13 million) against the cap by releasing him in 2022.
This is one of those trades that generates a ton of buzz and conversation. The hot take reactions were in full flight the minute the deal was announced.
Now that the dust has settled, I truly believe this a rare win for both sides of this deal. The Rams immediately become serious contenders in the NFC now that they have the most important position on the field upgraded, and the Lions add draft capital to aid their rebuild and the chance to reshape Goff into an above-average quarterback away from the bright lights of Los Angeles.
Thanks for reading.
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