Detroit Lions trade Matthew Stafford to Rams for Jared Goff, 2 first-round picks

Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press
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Matthew Stafford is going to the Los Angeles Rams.

And Jared Goff is headed to the Detroit Lions.

The Lions have agreed to trade Stafford to the Rams for three draft picks, including two future first-round picks and a 2021 third-round pick, the Free Press confirmed Saturday night. The first-round picks are in 2022 and 2023. The Rams are without a first-round pick this year, after trading it to Jacksonville in a package for cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

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Goff was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft by the Rams, where new Lions GM Brad Holmes was the college scouting director for the past eight seasons. Holmes' evaluation was crucial in the Rams' decision to trade up and draft Goff.

Goff, who did not return a phone call from the Free Press on Saturday, is expected to start at quarterback for the Lions in 2021. He signed a four-year, $134 million contract extension in 2019 that the Rams desperately wanted out of. Goff has more than $43 million guaranteed — and $54.3 million total — on his contract the next two seasons.

Stafford has been the Lions' starting quarterback the past 12 seasons, since the team made him the No. 1 pick out of Georgia in the 2009 draft. 

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Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford in the tunnel, prepares to take the field before the game against the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field, Dec. 13, 2020.

Stafford, who owns a house in southern California, went to ownership after the Lions' 5-11 season and requested a trade, not wanting to be part of another organizational rebuild. The Lions agreed to fulfill that request in late January and opened trade talks with multiple teams during Senior Bowl week.

The trade, which leaves the Lions with about $19 million in dead salary cap from Stafford's contract, will not become official until the 2021 league year begins March 17.

A person who spoke with Stafford after the trade called the deal a "win-win" for him and the organization.

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff during the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field, Dec. 2, 2018.

Stafford, who turns 33 in February, joins a Rams team that considered itself a star quarterback away from a return trip to the Super Bowl. They won a playoff game at Seattle this season with an injured Goff replacing an injured John Wolford.

Goff helped lead the Rams to the Super Bowl in the 2018 season, but they fell 13-3 to the New England Patriots. The Rams made the playoffs three of the past four seasons with Goff under center and head coach Sean McVay. 

With two years left on his contract, Stafford should lead the Rams offense through at least the 2022 season.

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He is coming off his eighth career 4,000-yard passing season and played all 16 games in 2020 despite dealing with ankle, thumb and rib injuries.

"Here’s what I’ll say about Matthew, man, is he’s a stud," new Lions coach Dan Campbell said in his introductory news conference in mid-January. "He is one of the toughest quarterbacks you will ever see. He’s extremely talented. I know he’s a team guy. And listen, I know he wants to win. And so I’ll leave it at that."

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford celebrates with fans after defeating the San Diego Chargers 38-10 at Ford Field to clinch a playoff berth, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011.

Stafford, who earned a reputation as one of the NFL's toughest gunslingers during his time in Detroit, will go down as the best Lions quarterback of the past 63 years, since Hall of Famer Bobby Layne helped the franchise win its last championship in 1957.

He holds virtually every franchise passing record, including single-season and career marks for yards, touchdowns, completions and attempts. And he authored some of this generation's most memorable Lions moments.

As a rookie in 2009, Stafford played through a separated left shoulder to throw a game-winning touchdown pass against the Cleveland Browns with no time on the clock. NFL Films captured him talking his way onto the field for one last play, despite the injury.

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In 2011, Stafford became the fourth quarterback in NFL history to top 5,000 yards passing in a season. Two years later, he scored on a fake-spike touchdown in the waning seconds of a 31-30 comeback win over the Dallas Cowboys. And in 2014, he led the Lions to their second of three playoff appearances during his tenure, where they suffered a controversial loss to the Cowboys.

Stafford threw incomplete to Brandon Pettigrew on third-and-1 with just over 8 minutes to play and the Lions leading by a field goal. Officials initially flagged a Cowboys defender for pass interference on the play, but waved off the penalty. The Lions punted, watched Dallas drive the field for the winning touchdown, then Stafford fumbled twice in the final 2:10 of a 24-20 defeat.

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The fastest quarterback in NFL history to reach 40,000 yards passing, Stafford's biggest downfall — ultimately the reason he and the Lions parted ways — was that he never won enough in Detroit.

Stafford came to the Lions after the franchise became the first team in NFL history to go 0-16; he compiled a 74-90-1 record as a starter.

He led the Lions to wild-card playoff appearances in 2011, 2014 and 2016, but never won a postseason game or an NFC North title and rarely had enough talent around him. In 12 seasons, Stafford played with one 1,000-yard rusher and one top-10 defense (in 2014), though he did play alongside Calvin Johnson for much of his career.

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Along the way, Stafford passed for 45,109 yards — 16th most in NFL history at the time of his trade — and 282 touchdowns, and in the 2011-19 seasons made 136 consecutive starts. That streak came to an end midway through 2019, when Stafford was lost for the year to broken bones in his back.

Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford is sacked by Cassius Marsh of the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 16, 2018 in Santa Clara, Calif.

The Lions hired Campbell and Holmes, their third GM and fourth full-time head coach since 2009, in mid-January, and are in the early stages of what appears to be a massive rebuild.

They need to completely revamp a defense that gave up the most points and yards in the league in 2020. They need to restock a receiving corps that counts its top four players as free agents, though Kenny Golladay could return on the franchise tag.

Before the trade, the Lions had just five picks in the draft, including No. 7 overall in the first round. They now have six picks with the additional third-rounder.

A league source told the Free Press that the Lions had seven or eight offers for Stafford, all of which included a first-round pick.

The Lions play the Rams in Los Angeles next season.

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. 

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