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Is Jared Goff still the answer for the Los Angeles Rams?

Jared Goff has continued to prove inconsistent for the Los Angeles Rams, but is there an option for them to release or trade him in 2021?

Is Jared Goff still the answer for the Los Angeles Rams?
GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 06: Quarterback Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams looks to pass during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on December 06, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

After another rollercoaster season, the Los Angeles Rams’ patience with Jared Goff could be wearing thin. Could we see the Rams willing to move away from Jared Goff in 2021, and would it be feasible for them to either release or trade the former #1 selection?

Jared Goff’s career has taken a turn for the worse in the past two seasons

Goff’s career to this point has really been a story of three parts. The rough introduction, the wonders of Sean McVay, and then the return to struggles.

Goff’s career got off to a bad start with the Rams

After being selected as the first overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Jared Goff struggled. In his seven starts, the Rams went 0-7, as Goff threw seven interceptions and five touchdowns. During that stretch, he completed just 54.6 percent of his passes and was sacked 26 times.

Had Goff played enough games to qualify, his completion percentage would have ranked as the second-worst in the league. His interceptions percentage of 3.4 would have tied for the third-worst. Meanwhile, his 2.4 percent touchdown rate would have been the worst in the league.

The arrival of McVay changed everything for Goff

Ahead of his second year, the Rams hired Sean McVay as head coach. The transformation in the play of Jared Goff was instant. Goff completed over 60 percent of his passes in 2017, threw 28 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. His touchdown percentage (5.9) ranked fourth, and his interception percentage was the seventh-best.

Goff maintained that form for the most part in 2018. His interceptions percentage rose to 2.1 percent, but he threw 32 touchdowns and led his team to a Super Bowl. In that season, Goff posted his highest grade in Pro Football Network’s Offensive Value Metric.

The last two years have not been kind to Jared Goff

After throwing 60 touchdowns and 19 interceptions in the first two seasons under McVay, Goff has thrown just 42 touchdowns with 29 interceptions in the following two years. His yards per attempt have dropped from over eight yards to just over seven.

The worst part has been the lack of consistency. Goff has appeared to wildly swing from good performances to bad before playing well again the following week. It has all led to questions around Goff’s future in Los Angeles.

Could the Rams move on from Jared Goff this offseason?

After starting all but one game since McVay arrived in Los Angeles, Goff missed Week 17 after having thumb surgery. John Wolford took his place and led the Rams to a playoff-clinching victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Wolford’s passing numbers were uninspiring, but the team looked to respond positively, and Wolford’s legs added an aspect that the Rams do not get under Goff.

In his career, Jared Goff has rushed for 314 yards at an average of 1.9 yards per attempt. In his only NFL start, Wolford managed 56 yards at over nine yards per attempt. One start in which Wolford posted a total of 287 yards with no touchdowns and an interception does not suddenly mean Goff is finished. However, it demonstrated to the Rams that perhaps there is an option beyond their franchise QB.

Could Goff be a trade or cut candidate in 2021?

In 2019, Jared Goff signed a four-year, $134 million contract extension. The 2020 season was due to be the “option year” of Goff’s rookie contract, meaning Goff still has four years left on his deal. After having a $28.8 million cap hit in 2020, Goff’s number is set to rise to $34.6 million in 2021.

In a year where the Rams are heading into an offseason $20.9 million over the projected salary cap, Goff is accounting for around 20 percent of the Rams salary cap in 2021. Therefore, if the Rams are considering a future without Jared Goff, is there a way they can either release or trade him in 2021?

It would not be feasible for the Rams to release Goff in 2021

Goff’s contract situation is somewhat convoluted. At the time of signing the extension, the Rams gave Goff a $25 million dollar signing bonus. That bonus affects the salary cap over five years at $5 million per year. On top of that, the Rams restructured Goff’s deal in 2020. They converted $9 million into a signing bonus, putting another $1.8 million per year onto the salary cap in the next five seasons.

What this all means is that in 2021 through 2023, Jared Goff has a prorated bonus change of $6.8 million per year. In 2024, that prorated bonus cap charge drops to $1.8 million. If the Rams cut Goff, all of that bonus ($22.2 million) accelerates onto the 2021 cap. Additionally, Goff is owed $27.5 million in guaranteed money in 2021 and $15.5 million in 2022. All of that means the Rams would carry $65.2 million in dead money in 2021 if they were to cut Goff.

At $65.2 million, Goff would account for more than a third of the Rams’ projected salary cap space in 2021. Even if the Rams designate Goff as a post-June 1 cut, his dead money charge in 2021 would still be around $50 million. There is no realistic way the Rams could release Jared Goff in 2021.

Trading Jared Goff would provide the Rams with salary cap relief

If the Rams are unable to release Jared Goff, they could at least attempt to trade him. Trading Goff would still accelerate the remaining bonus money onto the cap in 2021, but it would remove that guaranteed salary in 2021 and 2022. Trading Goff would leave the Rams with $22.2 million in dead money in 2021, a cap saving of $12.4 million.

The problem, however, is finding a trade partner. Goff is still guaranteed $27.5 million in 2021 and $15.5 million in 2022. The inability of another team to be able to make a clean break from Goff after 2021 will be a major concern in any trade. If Goff does not bounce back in 2021, his new team would be left facing a tough decision. Cut Goff and be on the hook for $15.5 million in cash and dead money, or keep him, and pay an extra $10.3 million in salary.

Given the financial situation, the most likely scenario is that the Rams would have to sweeten the deal. They would likely need to include a draft pick as compensation for another team taking the risk. The Rams could find themselves sending Goff and a second or third-round pick for as little as a fifth or sixth-round pick in return. Therefore, it seems likely that regardless of what happens in the coming weeks, Jared Goff will remain on the Rams roster in 2021.

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