PALM BEACH, Fla. — In another spring of unprecedented quarterback movement, when at least eight teams — a full quarter of the NFL — have changed signal callers since the end of the season, the Detroit Lions are moving forward with Jared Goff as their starter.
Lions general manager Brad Holmes reiterated his faith in Goff in a 30-plus-minute interview with beat reporters at the league’s annual meeting Tuesday, but stopped short of declaring a quarterback off limits for his team with the No. 2 pick in April’s draft.
“Jared played good football for us late in the year, so we have a lot of optimism about Jared going forward, so we have a quarterback,” Holmes said. “If you’re asking, like, why did not we not kind of hop into that world (of quarterback movement this offseason), we’re happy with where Jared’s at right now. We’re looking forward to him having a productive year for us.”
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Holmes’ comments echo what team president Rod Wood said Monday in explaining why the Lions did not pursue Deshaun Watson in a trade with the Houston Texans.
The Lions never seriously considered acquiring Watson, who was traded to the Cleveland Browns for five draft picks amid a slew of off-field issues, in part because of their faith in Goff.
Acquired from the Los Angeles Rams in the Matthew Stafford trade last season, Goff had a rocky start to his tenure in Detroit but played well in the second half of last season, when he went 3-2-1 in six starts while missing three games with injuries.
In informal talks with NFL coaches, general managers and owners this week, several expressed the belief that Goff remains a placeholder for the Lions, though none had a clear answer for how the team will proceed at the position.
One general manager of a quarterback-needy team predicted the Lions would draft quarterback Malik Willis at No. 2, while another in the market for a quarterback said he found that scenario unlikely.
Willis is considered the highest-upside quarterback in the draft, and the Lions worked closely with him and came away impressed by his abilities at the Senior Bowl. But he also is considered a raw prospect in great need of seasoning.
Asked directly if a quarterback is in the mix for the Lions, whose draft board is loosely set, Holmes said there are “multiple players at multiple positions that if we turn the card in today we could turn that card in today and sleep well at night.”
Holmes acknowledged there would be a benefit to drafting a young quarterback who could learn under Goff with no pressure to play this season.
“Sure, I could see some advantage of there is a young quarterback that can learn under Jared,” he said. “I don’t think Jared would have any issues taking on that role. He’s had more younger guys with less experience behind him, so he’d be very comfortable with that.”
Taking a quarterback high, however — whether it’s at No. 2 or with the Lions’ other early picks at 32 and 34 — would put an expiration date on Goff’s tenure with the Lions and fly in the face of the belief Holmes and Lions coach Dan Campbell have expressed in his ability to be the team’s long-term answer at the position.
Goff, 27, has three years left on his current contract, though the Lions can get out of the deal with limited cap ramifications after the 2022 season.
“Obviously, the quarterback position is extremely critical to any team’s success,” Holmes said. “That goes without saying. But again, we have a lot of confidence in Jared. Again, we’re all about putting him in the best position to succeed. And if we do that and our confidence that we have with him, and we talked about the continuity that we have coming back with not only the receivers but the coaching staff, offensive line, we’re very confident in Jared and what he can do.”
The Lions return their entire starting offense from last season and added receiver DJ Chark in free agency. Chark is expected to play as the Lions’ X receiver this fall and be the downfield and red zone threat they lacked when they finished 25th in scoring last season.
Holmes said he views Goff long-term as “a starter that can be productive for us.”
Ultimately, whether the Lions address the quarterback position this spring will depend both on the veracity of that belief and their evaluation of prospects like Willis, Desmond Ridder and Kenny Pickett.
“I mean, that’s — I think that’s what we have,” Holmes said. “So if you’re — whatever the case is, Jared’s our quarterback and we’re going to make sure that he’s put in the best position to succeed and that’s — we’ll let the chips fall from there.”