It was bold and daring. One that we’re still talking about years later.
No, not your New Year’s Eve party.
The Los Angeles Rams 2021 trade for quarterback Matthew Stafford was the type of deal that doesn’t happen in the NFL. The Rams sent Jared Goff, a young Pro Bowl quarterback who played in a Super Bowl, and a couple of draft picks, to the Detroit Lions for Stafford.
Almost two years later, Stafford has delivered a Super Bowl title to the Rams, but hasn’t played since Week 10 and won’t play for the rest of the season with a spinal cord injury. The Rams are 5-10.
Goff and the Lions are 7-8 and on the outside of the NFC playoff picture, but still in the picture.
So who won the trade? Did anyone? Was it a short-term gain for the Rams at the expense of long-term hope?
Let’s revisit the deal and figure out what went down. Just like that New Year’s Eve party, memories can be foggy.
What Did The Lions Get
The Lions got a third-round pick in 2021, which they used to select Syracuse safety Ifeatu Melifonwu, a first-round pick in 2022 which they traded all around (we will get to that in a minute) and they get the Rams 2023 first-round pick which is currently No. 7.
Let’s start with Melifonwu. He’s not a star. He played in seven games last year, making four starts and has battled an ankle injury in 2022 and hasn’t played that much.
On Draft Day 2022, the Lions packaged the Rams pick with their own and sent it to the Vikings to move up to No. 12. They took Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams, who was coming off a torn ACL. Williams made his NFL debut in Week 13 and has one catch, a 41-yarder for TD.
What happened to the Rams pick at 32? The Vikings took Lewis Cine, a safety out of Georgia. He had one of the worst injuries in the NFL this year, shattering his leg against the Saints in London. He’s on injured reserve.
But That’s Not All The Lions Got
The Lions also still get the Rams first round pick in 2023. Right now on the famed Mel Kiper Big Board, Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud is listed as the seventh best prospect. It’s unlikely the Lions will draft a quarterback in the first round, DE Myles Murphy out of Clemson is also up there.
And then there’s Goff.
To me Goff has never been the same since Super Bowl LIII and the loss to the Patriots. I believe he lost confidence in himself and the Rams lost confidence in him after that game. It’s that simple.
Goff was Ok last year for a bad Lions team, throwing for 3,245 yards and 19 touchdowns.
This year the Lions are better and Goff is better. He’s 41 yards away from 4,000 and his passer rating ranks No. 7 in the NFL. That’s pretty good. Does he have his confidence back? Or more importantly, do the Lions believe in him?
What Did The Rams Get
They got Stafford, who delivered a Super Bowl title throwing for 4.886 yards. This year though? I guess we can call it incomplete. In training camp there were worries about Stafford’s elbow, remember how he was on a pitch count? Maybe that was an omen.
The Rams brought in Allen Robinson II to play wide receiver. That never clicked. The running game stank. The offensive line got hurt, like, the entire offensive line. Stafford looked, well, old at times. It looks like he will finish the season with 2,087 yards, 10 touchdowns and eight picks. His passer rating is 87.4.
Stafford will be 35 by the time training camp starts in 2023 for the Rams. Could he be in a battle for the starting job with Baker Mayfield? There’s lots of different ways this could go.
Should The Rams Have Made The Trade?
Yes. Super Bowl rings are forever. Stafford was better than advertised for the Rams leading them to a Super Bowl title last year. He brought the franchise some swagger and style.
But…are the Rams in as good a place as the Lions now to compete for Super Bowls in the future?
You’re going to hear a lot of analysts and commentators say no, that the Lions are a team on the rise and all that, but I’m still not convinced that Goff is a Super Bowl winning quarterback. And I’m not convinced the Lions won the trade.
Also, let’s be real and look at the NFL today. Year by year, teams go up and down based on who suddenly emerges and who gets hurt and when. Did anyone think the New York Giants would be in the thick of the playoff chase right now? No. Same for the New York Jets. Same for the (checks notes) Jacksonville Jaguars. Just a couple of weeks ago the Chargers were on the outside of the playoffs. Now, they clinched with two weeks to play.
Potential is all well and good in the NFL, that’s what the Lions have. The Rams have rings.
There’s Always Next Year
To me the biggest question facing the Rams this off-season is the status of Stafford…and Sean McVay, I still think McVay could walk out the door for big TV money. Just a weird feeling I have. But if Stafford is healthy and comes back, and Cooper Kupp comes back and Aaron Donald comes back (and you know they will) the Rams are still contenders in the NFC.
Then it comes down to a little bit of luck, mainly good health. The NFC West is still available for the Rams. The Cardinals are about to clean house. The Seahawks are…strange. The Niners are the team to beat. Stafford gives the Rams the best chance to do so.