It was a jam-packed week of football leading up to Super Bowl week. The 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl took place in Mobile, Alabama, to spark a much-anticipated draft season. The final head coaching vacancy was filled when the Texans hired Baltimore assistant head coach and passing games coordinator David Culley. Both very big deals in their own right, but the most interesting news has to be what the Rams and Lions did late on Saturday night.
The first proverbial domino has fallen in an off-season with a ton of expected quarterback movement. The Lions traded quarterback Matt Stafford to the Rams for a 2022 first-round selection, a 2023 first-round selection, a third-round pick, and quarterback Jared Goff. This blockbuster deal gives Detroit multiple draft assets and a struggling young quarterback with an unreasonable contract.
Lions' newly appointed general manager Brad Holmes was the director of college scouting for the Rams when they selected Goff first overall back in 2016. It’s not every day that two former first overall picks are traded for each other; Goff is only 26 years old and Stafford is 32, going on 33 soon.
The Rams frustration was evident all season with Goff’s inability to succeed without a play-action attack. He seemed to struggle against middle of the field open concepts and he was in competition with John Wolford for starting snaps in the playoffs, due to his thumb injury. Apparently, the thumb injury wasn’t the only reason the Rams were looking to move in another direction.
The haul for the Lions is excellent for Detroit and they handled this trade fantastically. They stated that they were parting ways with Stafford and said the trade was expected to happen before the Super Bowl. There were reportedly six teams that were talking with the Lions who maximized their suitors and basically set a bidding war for the underutilized star quarterback. Despite everyone knowing Stafford was on the market, the Lions still got the haul they received - I would be very pleased if I was a Lions fan.
As for the Rams, they needed to get out of Goff’s contract which was set to start in 2021 and go through 2024. It was a 4 year, $134 million deal that HASN’T EVEN STARTED YET! Rams general manager Les Snead made a similar mistake with Todd Gurley. The star running back was signed to a 4 year $60 million deal with $45 million guaranteed in the summer of 2018.
Gurley’s rookie contract was set to end in 2020 - he was released after the 2019 season. Gurley never played a down on his new contract; basically, he received a massive raise, for no reason, that resulted in a $20.15 million dead cap hit in 2020 (the second-largest dead cap hit in NFL history at the time).
The dead cap from Gurley’s deal is now the third-largest in NFL history because the Rams will eat $22.2 million in dead cap for the Goff deal which is more than Antonio Brown’s dead cap. Not great, but the trade allows the Rams to get out of Goff’s contract long term while significantly upgrading the position.
Goff was set to make $34.7 million this season if he was on the Rams; essentially, the Rams elected to eat the $22.2 million and not $34.7 million and find a trade partner, which brings Stafford into the fold. The contract for Stafford is set through the 2022 season. For the 2021 season, with Stafford’s current contract and the dead cap from Goff, the Rams will be paying $42.2 million to the quarterback position, which is obviously more than the original $34.7 million that Goff was set to make. But once the deal is finalized on March 17th, the Rams can restructure Stafford’s deal and even extend him, which would open money up down the line.
We don’t see many trades done in the NFL that involves a team trading draft capital to get rid of a bad contract - NFL teams aren’t exactly eleemosynary towards each other. These trades happen a lot in the NBA, but not really in the NFL. The most notable one in the NFL was when the Texans traded quarterback Brock Osweiler for a second-round pick and a sixth-round pick, for a fourth-round pick. That was a pure salary dump; while the Rams needed to find a way out of Goff’s poor contract, they at least received a valuable asset in return.
Rams’ general manager Les Snead has a much different approach than most general managers - he doesn’t value first-round picks like many of his contemporaries. He seems to view them as trade assets to extricate already proven veterans from bad teams to better his roster. The last first-round pick Snead made was the quarterback he just traded back in 2016.
Snead traded the 2017 first-round pick with Tennessee’s general manager John Robinson to jump up to the first pick in the 2016 draft to select Goff. He then traded the 23rd overall selection to the Patriots for Brandin Cooks in 2018, someone he subsequently traded to the Texans for a second-round pick after resigning him to another big contract. The Rams then traded their 2019 pick (31) to the Falcons to move back to 45 and then to 61 to select safety Taylor Rapp out of Washington.
Snead then traded two first-round picks for star cornerback Jalen Ramsey and now two more to send Goff away and receive Stafford. It’s a bit unorthodox to not have a first-round pick in seven years, but the Rams continue to have success. Their biggest issue this year was quarterback Jared Goff, and they definitely upgraded by bringing in Stafford. It was a very steep price, so I’d imagine that the 5 other teams involved were really interested in Stafford as well.
Another interesting part of this trade is the precedent that was set. If 32-year-old Matt Stafford, who has been dinged up and has had back issues, can fetch two first-round picks...then what will 25-year-old DeShaun Watson garner on the open market. This is what I call a segue…
Texans’ general manager Nick Casario filled his head coaching vacancy with Ravens assistant head coach and passing games coordinator David Culley. The new Texans’ coach has been in the NFL since 1994 with the coaching staffs of Sam Wyche (Buccaneers), Bill Cowher (Steelers), Andy Reid (Eagles & Chiefs), Sean McDermott (Bills), and John Harbough (Ravens).
Culley seems confident that star quarterback DeShaun Watson will be a Texan in 2021, despite the fact that Watson has formally requested a trade. It’s one of the more interesting storylines of the off-season and Watson has been linked to the Dolphins, Jets, and even the 49ers, but both Culley and Casario seem disinclined to trade the disgruntled quarterback. We will be staying tuned to this situation.
J.J. Watt is also searching for clarity as he enters the final year of his contract with the Texans. Watt has been nothing short of spectacular for the Texans since they drafted him in the first round out of Wisconsin back in 2011. He means so much to that city, but he also deserves better than what the Texans are currently offering. I would not be shocked if he’s dealt this off-season as well.
I’m a big Senior Bowl guy...no, my name isn’t Dave Gettleman, but I do enjoy the event immensely. BBV contributors Chris Pflum, Joe Deleon, and I wrote a bunch about the prospects and practices all week. The Dolphins and Panthers had the privilege to coach the event this year and it was Brian Flores’ crew that defeated Matt Rhule’s team 27-24. Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond was named the MVP of the game - somewhere...someone is already making a Giants jersey for Mond.
In all seriousness, the National Team (Dolphins) went up to an early two-score, 13-0, lead, and then the American Team (Panthers) made it interesting and scored 16 straight points to take the lead, but it was essentially the National Team for the rest of the game until a late touchdown made the score 27-24.
There were a lot of small school guys that didn’t have a chance to play in 2020 who showed up and made a lot of money for themselves. Division III’s Quinn Meinerz out of Wisconsin-Whitewater propelled himself from being a seventh-round pick to possibly being selected on day two. He’s being compared a lot to Ali Marpet who came out of Hobart and had a great Senior Bowl back in 2015.
Other smaller school players that had great weeks include wide receivers D’Wayne Eskridge (Western Michigan), Cade Johnson (South Dakota State), Austin Watkins (UAB), along with offensive lineman out of Grambling David Moore, OL out of Coastal Carolina D’Ante Smith, and defensive linemen Cam Sample (Tulane) and Elerson Smith (Northern Iowa).
There’s a lot going on in the NFL right now, and there’s still a Super Bowl to be played next week! Patrick Mahomes gets to square off against Tom Brady in this final game of the 2020 NFL calendar. Will this be like the week twelve 27-24 victory where Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill had over 200 yards in the first quarter - we shall see, but this week of events set the NFL off-season up for some more very interesting storylines.