You can’t say the Rams don’t move swiftly and decisively.
As for effectively? We’ll see.
Two summers ago, coming off a Super Bowl appearance – albeit an offensively flaccid one against the Patriots – they gave Jared Goff a huge contract extension, four years, $134 million all told and a little over $110 million of that guaranteed.
Saturday night, having judged that the offense under Goff likely wasn’t going to get appreciably better, they cut their losses. Goff, plus a third-round pick in 2021 and first-rounders in 2022 and ’23, will go to Detroit for quarterback Matthew Stafford, and consider that just minutes after the trade SportsBetting.com dropped the Rams’ odds in 2022 for Super Bowl LVI in Inglewood from 18-1 to 10-1, behind only Kansas City and Tampa Bay.
Betting lines, of course, are hardly a scientific method of determining whether a trade was a good one. But they do reflect or at least predict public sentiment, and it was pretty obvious by the latter part of the season that Rams fans had Goff fatigue.
The main takeaway here is that the Rams front office gets it. Southern California adores winners and shuns losers. And in a town that has already celebrated two championships in the last five months, even the most expensive stadium in North America will not be enough to hold L.A. fans’ interest when they’re finally allowed in unless the product matches the opulence.
But is this decisiveness or desperation? Obviously the Rams aren’t afraid to change course, as the second bombshell in two offseasons has shown. But they painted themselves into a corner by handing Goff that huge contract following the Super Bowl year. And as we suggested was likely earlier in the week they had to add assets in order to find a taker.
Probably not coincindentally, that turned out to be new Lions GM Brad Holmes, whose last gig was as the Rams’ director of college scouting. In that role he scouted Goff at Cal, so I think we can assume he knows what he’s getting.
Or at least he knows his former boss isn’t afraid to throw around draft picks. If you listen closely you can hear echoes of George Allen’s “The future is now” philosophy. The Rams’ last first round choice was Goff in 2016 with the No. 1 pick. Their next first-rounder? Right now it’ll be in the 2024 draft, but stay tuned.
Anyway, two words for those who would treat those first-round picks like gold: Cam Akers, a second-rounder who could be a star. And two more words: Jalen Ramsey, the haul for two of those first-rounders and maybe the best shutdown corner in the NFL.
Will this deal be worth it?
Goff is 26, while Stafford turns 33 in a week. He was the 2009 No. 1 pick out of Georgia, and in 12 NFL seasons he has averaged 273.4 passing yards and 23.6 completions per game, both No. 4 on the all-time lists. He has a strong arm, and he’s tough, but he’s been banged up and beat up over the years while playing for a forlorn franchise that has reached the postseason three times in his 12 seasons, the last in 2016. His teams have been in the league’s top 10 in scoring twice, and in one of those (2017) the Lions missed the playoffs.
How much of that has been on the quarterback, and how much of that on the team he has had around him?
When general manager Les Snead held his end-of-season session with the media last Tuesday, we should have anticipated this was coming. Over and over he was asked about Goff, and the way he parried those questions made it clear that something was up. When it’s said that someone is the quarterback “right now,” you might as well put it in big neon letters that his days are numbered.
Snead also made it clear that offensive improvement was a priority: “Being more explosive, scoring more points, not turning the ball over as much.” That’s fairly obvious. But here we should point out that in 2020 Goff threw for 20 touchdowns but was responsible for 17 turnovers (13 interceptions, four lost fumbles). Stafford, with an even leakier offensive line, threw for 26 touchdowns and coughed it up 11 times (10 picks, one lost fumble).
Stafford was on his way to perhaps his best season in 2019 (19 touchdowns, 5 interceptions and a career best 106.0 quarterback rating after eight games) before fracturing bones in his back. He regressed somewhat in 2020, but played with injuries to his ribs, ankle and throwing hand and also had little help from a running game that was 30th in the league. That shouldn’t be a problem in L.A. (see: Cam Akers).
This is not a move for three or five years down the road. The Rams feel the urgency of a big market team, as they should. If it doesn’t work, all the urgency in the world might not be enough a few years from now.
In the meantime, Stafford will now be reunited with his high school teammate from Dallas Highland Park, a fellow named Clayton Kershaw.
Maybe Kersh will let Stafford rub his World Series ring for luck.
@Jim_Alexander on Twitter
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