Jared Goff will not be the Lions’ starting quarterback a minute longer than he has to be, but how long are they stuck with him on the roster?
After acquiring him in the trade that sent Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams, Lions general manager Brad Holmes told the team website he doesn’t view Jared Goff as a bridge quarterback.
“I never viewed him as a bridge option,” Holmes said. “He’s been a winning quarterback. I think his resume speaks for itself.”
Holmes previous role in the Rams’ front office as director of college scouting made him instrumental in the drafting of Goff No. 1 overall in 2016. So he’s surely going to temper any criticism and not reveal actual plans, even if the world knows Goff is not the Lions’ quarterback of the future.
Due to lack of better options, Goff will start every game for the Lions this season unless he’s severely injured. The idea of benching him for David Blough is convenient, but it’s not realistic. There is a bigger question worth exploring though.
How long are the Lions stuck with Jared Goff?
The Rams gave Goff an ill-fated contract extension in September of 2019. This is literally the first year of that four-year, $134 million deal, with cap numbers north of $30 million each of the next three years (via Over The Cap). The Lions restructured his contract in March, converting a big chunk of his 2021 base salary into signing bonus while transferring $5 million in cap charges to each year from 2022-2024.
As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press noted, if the Lions had left Goff’s contract untouched they could’ve traded him without a cap charge before a $15.5 million roster bonus is due next March. Instead, they transferred some financial commitment to subsequent years to open up cap space in this cap-reduced year.
Goff carries a $31.15 million cap hit for 2022, with $10 million in injury guaranteed salary becoming fully guaranteed on March 19. Cutting him prior to June 1 is a non-starter, with $30.5 million in dead money (according to Over The Cap), with a post-June 1 cut “dropping” the dead money to $20.5 million.
The far easier out, as cited by Spotrac, is in 2023. Cutting Goff before June 1, 2023 would leave behind $10 million in dead money, and clear $20.65 million in cap space. The dead money falls to $5 million on a post-June 1 cut.
If another team wanted to trade for Goff, the Lions would take on $15 million in dead money in 2022 with $16.15 million in cleared cap space (before June 1, according to Over The Cap). In 2023, a trade would carry the same cap ramifications as a cut before or after June 1. Never say never, but the Lions aren’t going to trade Goff before the Nov. 2 trade deadline. Not that another team would especially want him, knowing they’d be essentially stuck with him next year.
So as practical matter Goff will be a Lion through next season, then he’ll be gone one way or the other early in the 2023 offseason. He might be an expensive backup for much of next season if the Lions draft a quarterback who proves capable of starting, but Lions’ fans will surely prefer that to having to watch him play knowing he is not the long-term answer under center.