Comparing Trevor Lawrence and Jared Goff: The numbers and the contracts

USA Today

It didn’t take long for Jared Goff’s contract extension with the Detroit Lions to get put into a broader NFL context. When the Jacksonville Jaguars signed their franchise quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, to a lucrative new deal on Thursday, it provided a nice comparative tool for what the Lions and Goff agreed to earlier this offseason.

Lawrence signed a new five-year, $275 million contract on Thursday, keeping the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft in Jacksonville. Initial reports indicate that $200 million of the total is guaranteed.

Goff’s new contract pays the Lions QB $212 million over four years, an annual average salary of $53 million. By way of comparison, Lawrence will get $55 million per year on average. Goff cleared just over 53 percent ($113.6M) of his contract fully guaranteed, while Lawrence’s deal features 72 percent guaranteed. That impacts how much flexibility the teams have in spreading out the salary cap hits.

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Because Lawrence joined the Jaguars at the same time Goff came to Detroit, it makes for an easy comparison of their current tenures. Here’s how they stack up, beginning in the 2021 season:

Record Completion % TDs INTs Yards per attempt GW drives Rush yards QB Rating
Goff 24-23-1 66.5 78 27 7.3 8 181 96.5
Lawrence 20-30 63.8 58 39 6.7 6 964 85.0

Goff is 30 years old, while Lawrence is 24. Both have led their teams to one playoff berth, with Lawrence and the Jaguars winning one game in the 2022 postseason and Goff leading the Lions to two postseason triumphs in 2023. The two have squared off once, with Goff and the Lions prevailing 40-14 in Week 13 of the 2022 season.

On the surface, Goff has clearly been the better quarterback over the last three seasons. However, NFL contracts are often based on what potential a player offers over the life of a contract. Lawrence being younger and having played with a lesser supporting cast than what Goff has had in Detroit — certainly over the last 25 or so games — is context for why the Jaguars were willing to make Lawrence the highest-paid QB in the league even though he’s not been as good of a quarterback as Goff (or many others) to start his career.

In short, the Jaguars are paying Lawrence a lot more on potential than actual accomplishment. The Lions are still paying for Goff’s potential, but he’s proven more capable of actually attaining that potential too.

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