I know what you're thinking. "Goff played well down the stretch". "Wasn't he a top 5 QB in ratings in the last 4 games of the year". "Isn't this premature?". "The free agent and draft alternatives are uninspiring". However, when you've got $31m against the cap for a QB (7th highest QB cap hit in the NFL per overthecap), you need to be constantly evaluating all options to better the team's prospects.
And that's the key phrase: Better the team's prospects. What does that mean to you? What's your goal? Is it an NFC North title? A Super Bowl? For me, I want sustained success. I want playoffs to be the expectations every year. I want to build with that in mind and it's that prism that I'm going to take this stand:
Jared Goff should be traded if any semi-reasonable offer comes in for him.
Jared Goff in review: 2021
It's worth acknowledging this first: Jared Goff got dealt a bum hand this season. Dumped by Sean McVay's LA Rams in 2020 prior to the trade, he had two really bad down years following some really good play in the two years prior. Coming into the season, expectations were pretty low.
And that's the way it started, leading to calls halfway through the season from some quarters to see Tim Boyle start, just to see how it looked. To see David Blough because Boyle didn't look great either. I think it gets forgotten very easily quite how bad this all started.
Now, Goff is very much a victim of circumstance here, there's no doubt about that. With an OC who didn't mesh with the staff or him calling plays, and his low confidence to start the season, expectations should perhaps have been even lower. And when Anthony Lynn did move on, when Dan Campbell took over play-calling with help from Ben Johnson as pass game co-ordinator there was a marked improvement from him. Let's take a look:
First 9 games
Last 5 games
So, he threw less, completed more, threw further, for a lot more TDs, less INTs, less sacks and achieved a similar amount of yards. Massive improvement. It's worth stating that the last 5 games were against the Bears, Vikings, Broncos, Cardinals and Packers so it wasn't a layup against bad defenses either.
Beyond the stats, he looked a lot more confident and assured too. He stepped up in pockets, instead of rolling out into sacks. He looked happier. The chemistry with his receivers was much improved. All good signs.
However, for me he didn't show enough over the course of the year to say that it was sustainable. Not enough to say that he can be the guy taking the Lions to multiple Super Bowls. In a league that has Mahomes, Rodgers, Herbert, Stafford, Wilson, Prescott, Allen and Burrow does this front office believe it can out-perform the rest of the league to such an extent to make the team around Goff sufficiently good to make up for this deficit of quality at QB. The guys above are going to give their teams a shot at glory every single year.
Projecting the future:
Scenario 1: Keep Goff, don't draft a QB
In this scenario, Goff stays and we build around him in the draft and free agency. The roster still lacks talent currently, but with investment and an average hit rate, the roster could be middling to good. In all likelihood, even with a more favourable run of games, an optimistic projection at this stage might be 9-8 - a VERY optimistic projection. That total should see you just miss out on the playoffs unless it's good enough to win the NFC North (and it might if Rodgers does leave GB). The bottom line is, it's not good enough.
In year 2, Goff's contract is effectively up - you need to re-sign him to a more team-friendly deal or cut him. Goff counts against the cap $31m in 2022 and then either $30.6m in 2023 or $10m dead, and $31.7m in 2024 or $5m dead. The other factor that everyone hates to speak about - you're harming the draft position with only a small chance of success.
Scenario 2: Keep Goff, but draft his replacement
Here, we hedge our bets and draft someone to groom into Goff's replacement. The team is less good than in scenario 1, at least in year 1 with less talent around Goff. We still get to year 2 with Goff leaving us, with a ready-made replacement (assuming the pick is good) but potentially not the best pick if you believe what you read about the 2022 and 2023 QB draft classes).
This to me appears to be the worst of all worlds.
Scenario 3: Trade Goff
If we really are saying that no matter what, the Lions are struggling to compete at the top table in 2022, the money you're paying Goff is essentially wasted. However, trading him will bring $16.1m of savings in 2022 and then you won't have $10m dead in 2023 - a total saving of $26.1m over those two years. Even if you're trading him for a pick swap at this point (if you can do that), that $26.1m could fund several excellent players in a 2023 year where the Lions are more likely to succeed. In the meantime, find a low-level competent starter to bridge. I'm looking at no more than $5m (Trubisky, Dalton, Taylor, Mariota could all be in this range), or draft someone if you really believe in them (looking at you Malik, Matt, Kenny or Desmond).
Why it makes even more sense than you might think
Trading Jared Goff is already radical I know, but here's the thing - while it would make more sense if he stank all the way through last year to try and trade him, that would also depress his value massively because who wants to trade for that? That he did better now the stretch should potentially create some interest in him.
There's a real lack of starter quality QBs this year through Free Agency and the Draft, and the Lions can leverage that into actually gaining some real value back for Goff. Yes, the Lions have to replace him, but considering that the Lions are still rebuilding, drafting a pro-ready QB later on in the draft, or taking a lower quality cheap bridge is far more palatable for the Lions than it would be for better rosters like Denver, Washington, Tampa, New Orleans, Pittsburgh who could legitimately be in win-now mode with a better QB than they currently have.
It's all about competing at the top table. Let's focus on getting the best team possible for sustained success and let's start in 2023, given it'll be hard to do so in 2022. Goff not being on the team in 2022 is the first step to doing that - the money is better spent elsewhere and we might get more in return than you might think.
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