Here’s the Detroit Lions’ possible escape hatch if the Jared Goff trade doesn’t work out

Detroit Free Press

Tyler J. Davis
| Detroit Free Press

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The Detroit Lions swapped their former No. 1 overall pick for the Los Angeles Rams’ former No. 1 overall pick and traded a lot of money in the process.  

While many NFL fans praised the Lions for getting Jared Goff, an average-or-better NFL quarterback, and multiple first-round picks for Matthew Stafford, the financial implications of the deal are interesting. The two teams — one rebuilding, the other fresh off a playoff appearance — reportedly are agreeing to pay historic amounts of dead money this upcoming season. Oh and they will play each other next season.

The Lions looked to deal Stafford, the No. 1 pick in 2009, after he asked for a trade; however, with more than $20 million due to him each of the next two years, not every team could afford the 12-year veteran.

[ Lions should fear Matthew Stafford trade becoming another Bobby Layne bomb ]

The Rams had long been considering a trade of their own No. 1 draft pick, Goff, who was taken in the 2016 draft. But the contract Los Angeles gave Goff, who has a Super Bowl appearance on his resume, less than two years ago was a roadblock.  

NFL analyst Mike Florio wrote just this week about some of the cap implications of a Goff trade. He’d long advocated against giving Goff big money and said there would be few, if any, teams willing to eat Goff’s money.

In hindsight, it was insane to pay Goff $33.5 million per year. It was insane to hitch the wagon to Goff for, as a practical matter, four more seasons. And it would be insane for another team, with so many options at quarterback, to trade for a contract that entails a fully-guaranteed commitment of $43.25 million over the next two years.

Enter the Detroit Lions.

For what it’s worth, Stafford’s cap hit is also about $43 million over the next two years. He is a free agent after the 2022 season while Goff is signed through 2024. The Lions will carry a $17.8 million dead cap hit in 2021; the Rams $22.2 million, according to Tom Pelissero. Luckily, the Lions have less than $1 million to pay in dead money so far, while the Rams are dealing with an $8 million hit for cutting Todd Gurley.

Time will tell if this move was actually foolish. Goff, 26, is projected to start for the Lions in the upcoming season, but the question remains: Is Goff the Lions’ long-term answer at quarterback, a bridge for whomever they select in one of the upcoming drafts or trade bait for another haul of picks (though that would likely come with Detroit paying some of Goff’s money)? 

Detroit did not have a ton of cap space before the trade. The Lions were not prime contenders to spend in free agency with a rebuild on the way, but the trade only tightens the team’s financial flexibility for next season.

Some may look at the Lions’ timeline for playoff contention and wonder why’d they’d be willing to pay this money. Remember, though, following the 2022 season, Goff’s contract gets much easier to move, with $0 dead cap hit if he’s cut. 

Even though he is likely to play for the team in 2021, that dead cap number is cut by two-thirds in 2022 — making a trade next offseason, or even cutting Goff if they’re confident in his replacement, a real possibility. Goff’s deal may be for four more seasons, but the Lions have options if they want to revamp their quarterback room before then. 

Follow the Free Press on Facebook and Twitter for more news. Tyler Davis can be contacted at or on Twitter @TDavisFreep.

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