Super Bowl week kicked off with the first domino in what could be a frenzied offseason, as the Los Angeles Rams sent Jared Goff, two future first-round draft picks and a 2020 third-rounder to the Detroit Lions in exchange for Matthew Stafford. We caught up with former Philadelphia Eagles team president Joe Banner to discuss the trade, what it means for both quarterbacks and how both franchises can move forward.
Starting with Los Angeles, what do you think about the trade from their perspective, giving up two future firsts in 2022 and 2023 along with Goff, who is only 26, and an additional third for a QB who will be 33 before next season starts?
Joe Banner: My personal opinion is I probably would not have done it. But if I was a decision-maker, and the coach was adamant about how much of a difference it could make, I would not ignore that. You really try to keep the coaches focused on coaching and engaging and the personnel staff on the players, but you can’t really just hand players to a coach that doesn’t want them or ignore something they think will be important. The reality is, if I was sitting with a coach who was adamant about it, I may have.
The Rams were due to pay Goff $54.3 million the next two seasons and are now on the hook to pay Stafford $20 million and $23 million over the final two seasons of his contract. The Rams also incurred $22.2 million in dead cap for the 2021 season. Against the cap, they save $12.75 million for Goff in 2021. Knowing that Los Angeles is paying Stafford more than $10 million less than what they owed Goff, why did the Rams not extend Stafford upon the trade?
Banner: It’s the same thing that happened with the Jalen Ramsey deal. You have a lot of leverage to get a deal done when you are trading for a player that wants out from where he is. They are hoping he is there for 4-5 years, if not more. I think they missed the window to get that extension done. I personally would have done that when you think about how much they gave up. They showed they really believe in this guy. You are probably going to have to do it after one year if he plays well. At that point, the agent has a tremendous amount of leverage. What they got with Stafford is a modest amount of cash and cap relief. They save $10 million, but they do take on $22 million in dead cap. Long term, there is a chance they are still able to save money on this.
Will they even be able to save cash if he gets an extension within the next year?
Banner: No, that is really up to them, though. They could make him play out the two years and if they cannot get something done, start to tag him. They can control him for 3-4 years that way. There is not much Stafford could do. He could hold out, but that is not really his personality, and it is really provocative for a quarterback to do that. I think he is going to be all-in and not burn bridges with his new team. I still think the most likely scenario is the Rams do complete a 2- to 3-year extension after his first year, which is why I think they should have done that now. The agent will have a lot of leverage on that extension, assuming he has a good year. I think they are a good team. They did lose their defensive coordinator, Brandon Staley, who seemed to be making a big difference. But if they are trying to win a Super Bowl in the next 2-3 years, I think they did increase their chances of that in a fairly meaningful way.
I think their window certainly decreased though. They have significant money tied up in several veteran players in the next four years:
Banner: I think they have established a 2- to 3-year window where they think they have a really good chance to win a Super Bowl. I personally do not like to think of things in that short of a window, because there are too many things that can go wrong — an injury to a key player, a bad bounce, a bad call. That is why I never liked going all-in for a two-year window. I certainly do understand the other side of it, though.
They also have John Johnson III coming up as a free agent, and he could push the top of the safety market with Justin Simmons. The Goff dead cap alone could prevent the Rams from re-signing him. Leonard Floyd is a free agent, coming off the best season of his career. They also have Troy Hill, Malcolm Brown, Josh Reynolds, Gerald Everett and Austin Blythe all entering free agency.
Banner: If we are back to normal in September, the cap will go up drastically in 2022, so they can borrow from the future. That is a big assumption that may or not be true. Right now, even the teams in the worst shape will be able to figure it out. If this becomes a two-year problem, it will become much, much harder. They are going to need to figure out how to keep some of those guys. They are exposed right now.
Moving to Detroit, I think the Lions did an excellent job maximizing Stafford’s value. They had already agreed to trade him, so retaining him was off the table. In return, they get a relatively young QB who has been to a Super Bowl and has had postseason success, along with two future firsts and a third this year.
Banner: I think Detroit did well. After they announced he was going to be traded, I thought they were going to get a one with additional assets. They agreed to take on Goff’s contract and were able to get a little more than that. They also agreed to take the picks in ‘22 and ‘23 instead of this year. I think they did very well. I think they will run the ball too much with Anthony Lynn, but maybe Goff can be good in that context. If he is not, they can cut him in a year or two and eat the cap dollars. If they are going to rebuild, that is a reasonable thing to do. I think both teams did well. The Rams are trying to win now and got a meaningful upgrade at quarterback and freed up a little money. Detroit is thinking about being good 3-4 years out. They accumulated good picks and acquired at least a possible solution at quarterback post-Matt Stafford. That is a lot. If Goff is a good quarterback for the next 4-5 years, this is a home run. If he is not and they cut him in a year, this is still a very good trade for them.