The Lions strengthened their commitment to Goff on Wednesday by doing a simple contract restructure. ESPN reported the Lions converted $20 million of Goff’s $25.65 million base salary this fall into a signing bonus.
That moves frees up $15 million in present day cap space — the $20 million bonus is prorated for cap purposes over the four years left on Goff’s contract — and gives the Lions enough room to sign their draft class and handle any moves that might arise during the season.
It also would leave the Lions with a large dead money cap hit of $15 million should they want to move on from Goff after this season.
Had the Lions left Goff’s contract unchanged, they would have had no cap charge for 2022 if they traded him before his guaranteed $15.5 million roster bonus is due next March.
The Lions traded Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for Goff and three draft picks in January, and general manager Brad Holmes said acquiring Goff, a 26-year-old who played in the Super Bowl two years ago, was a significant selling point in the deal.
“I know a lot of people talk about the picks, but a lot of it was Jared,” Holmes said at Goff’s introductory news conference last week. “That’s the part that sometimes gets kind of, I don’t want to say lost, but it’s like, OK, we can — third-round pick and two ones, but to have Jared? And again, it’s like I said earlier, his resume speaks for itself, he’s a proven winner, so for him to compete for the starting quarterback position and winning the starting quarterback position, I definitely expect him to reclaim that status.”
Holmes stopped short of saying Goff was in the Lions’ long-term plans, and once again left open the possibility the team will take a quarterback with the No. 7 pick in the draft.
The Lions are in the early stages of a major rebuild and as many as five quarterbacks — Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance and Alabama’s Mac Jones — could go in the top half of the first round.
Both the Lions and Rams took large dead money cap hits in their quarterback trade this offseason — Stafford still counts $19 million against the Lions’ cap, while Goff counts $24.7 million against the Rams’ — so the Lions still have some flexibility if they decide to go in a different direction at the position.
Asked about restructuring Goff’s contract last week, Holmes said whatever moves he makes are done “strategically and (with an eye toward) the future.”
“And what’s for the best for the future of the Lions,” he said. “So all of that has been taken into place, but for the respect of the process and where he’s at from a contractual standpoint, we’ll keep those in house. But we wouldn’t do anything to compromise the future of our franchise.”
Before executing Goff’s restructure — teams have unilateral power to do simple restructures in most NFL contracts — the Lions cleared nearly $30 million in cap space by restructuring Jamie Collins’ contract, forcing Nick Williams to take a pay cut and releasing seven veterans.
The Lions used that space to trade for defensive tackle Michael Brockers, who signed an extension to lessen his cap hit, and sign their modest free agent class that includes Charles Harris, Jamaal Williams, Tim Boyle and Breshad Perriman.