Why did the Rams trade for Matthew Stafford? Revisiting the trade between Los Angeles and Detroit

The trade of Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff between the Rams and Lions was a crucial part of Los Angeles' hunt for a Super Bowl victory.

Following the 2021 NFL season, the Los Angeles Rams and Detroit Lions executed a trade that sent Matthew Stafford to Los Angeles and Jared Goff to Detroit. Let’s examine the details of the trade and why the Rams felt they needed to make the move if they were to go all the way and win a Super Bowl.

The Rams acquired Matthew Stafford, sending Jared Goff to the Lions

At the end of January 2021, the Rams and Lions agreed on the trade that would send Goff to Detroit and bring Stafford to Los Angeles. Along with Goff, the Rams sent three draft picks to the Lions — a third-round pick in 2021 and first-round selections in both 2022 and 2023.

A large part of the Rams’ price involved offloading Goff’s contract from their books in 2021 and beyond. Goff had signed a four-year contract extension worth $134 million with the Rams in 2019. Within that deal was $110 million in guarantees, making it hard for the Rams to move on from Goff until after the 2022 season. At the time of the trade, Goff still had $43 million in guaranteed money remaining on his contract.

Even then, the Rams had to eat $24.7 million in dead money in 2021. That included the remaining $15 million in prorated signing bonus, a $2.5 million roster bonus, and the remaining $7.2 million in prorated option bonus. However, Goff would have cost around $30 million against the cap in 2021 regardless and around $30 million again in 2022.

Additionally, the Lions had to keep $19 million in dead money from Stafford’s contract to make the deal work. All of that factored into the price, as Stafford headed to Los Angeles with just a $20 million cap number for 2021 and $23 million in 2022.

Why did the Rams feel they needed to trade for Stafford?

The Rams had become the “not quite” team with Goff at QB. They had by no means failed, as they made the playoffs in three of the four years Goff and head coach Sean McVay were together. However, they had not managed to win the Super Bowl in any of those four years. The closest they came was in Super Bowl LIII, resulting in a 13-3 defeat by the New England Patriots.

The Rams have not been shy about going all-in under the guidance of McVay and general manager Les Snead. They have made a number of headline trades during that stretch. They brought in Brandin Cooks, Dante Fowler, and Marcus Peters, who have all now moved on to other franchises.

The biggest acquisition before Stafford was that of CB Jalen Ramsey. Los Angeles sent two first-round picks (2020 and 2021) to the Jacksonville Jaguars to acquire Ramsey. The team has made every attempt to give themselves superstar players across their roster.

That continued in 2021 when the Rams sent second and third-round selections in 2022 to the Denver Broncos in exchange for Von Miller. Look no further than their draft capital to see the efforts the Rams have made. Los Angeles has not made a first-round selection since they drafted Goff in 2016, and they are not currently set to make one until 2024. In the 2022 NFL Draft, the Rams have just a third-, fifth-, and seventh-round selection.

The pressure is on in Los Angeles

After making these moves, the Rams have no excuses. Go and win the Super Bowl. While their core of Stafford, Ramsey, Aaron Donald, and Cooper Kupp is under contract through next season, other key players are set to be free agents this offseason.

Miller, WR Odell Beckham Jr., and CB Darious Williams are set to be unrestricted free agents this spring. As well as those three key pieces, another two players acquired since McVay joined the team — G Austin Corbett and RB Sony Michel — are set to potentially leave the franchise.

The acquisition of Stafford essentially opened a two-year window for the Rams to make a run for the Super Bowl before reevaluating. The moves for Michel and Miller, as well as the full-court press applied by the team to add Beckham as a midseason free agent, demonstrated how the Rams have gone all-in this season.

There is a chance they can retool and go again next year. However, current projections have them $5 million over the cap. While they have 48 players under contract, the lack of cap space could make it hard for them to add difference-makers ahead of the 2022 season. As all NFL teams do, the Rams will open up cap space this offseason, but the pressure is on for the Rams to win a Super Bowl after their aggressive trading over the past couple of years.

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