Even though the Lions need to overhaul a roster that never came close to winning under former head coach Matt Patricia, the team doesn’t completely lack talent. After all, D’Andre Swift flashed dynamic ability during his rookie season. And T.J. Hockenson just earned his first of what should be many Pro Bowl selections.
However, the Lions just compromised their new quarterback’s future by making a risky move that could backfire badly with a player with more than just one season of production under his belt.
Jared Goff left behind a winning organization for an NFL team in full rebuilding mode
Jared Goff knows all too well about playing for a losing team. But once the Rams swapped out Jeff Fisher for Sean McVay, the former University of California star began to play up to his potential.
Coming off a disastrous rookie campaign, Goff completely changed his career narrative by completing 62.1% of his passes for 3,804 yards and 28 touchdowns. And after earning Pro Bowl honors in his second NFL season, he accomplished the feat again the following year.
But after losing to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 53, Goff regressed significantly.
In 2019, he posted an ugly 22:16 touchdown-to-interception ratio for a Rams team that failed to make the playoffs. Last season, he averaged just 7.2 yards per attempt while throwing 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Despite going 42-27 as a starter in five years in LA, Goff lost his job to another quarterback who went No. 1 in the NFL draft: Matthew Stafford. By trading their supposed franchise quarterback to the Lions, the Rams clearly believe the 33-year-old Stafford gives them a better chance of winning a Super Bowl title than the 26-year-old Goff.
Meanwhile, Detroit gladly accepted multiple draft picks for taking on a huge contract. Those picks, of course, will go toward rebuilding a roster that will surely undergo significant changes this offseason.
The Lions just compromised their new quarterback’s future with a risky move that could backfire badly
With a new general manager (and head coach) in place, it’s safe to say the Lions will look vastly different than they did in 2020.
Specifically, it looks like the receiver room will undergo a massive overhaul. And by making a risky move with star wideout Kenny Golladay, Detroit just comprised Jared Goff’s future with the franchise.
On Tuesday, the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported via Twitter that the Lions do not plan on using the franchise tag to retain the receiver’s services. Instead, the 6-foot-4, 214-pound pass-catcher should enter free agency as one of the top available players.
Although the former third-round pick only played five games last season, he made plenty of highlight-reel catches from 2018-19. During that stretch, Golladay totaled 135 receptions for 2,253 yards and 16 touchdowns. He earned Pro Bowl honors in 2019 after leading the NFL with 11 TD grabs.
Given his track record of production and physical skills, the 27-year-old should garner ample interest on the open market. That means bad news for Goff, who desperately needs a proven, top-flight receiver to have any shot at succeeding in Detroit. And if Golladay leaves, the Lions essentially have to start from scratch at the position.
Detroit’s offense will be in bad shape if Kenny Golladay leaves
Jared Goff’s future doesn’t look nearly as bright as it did when he played in LA. And if Detroit’s decision to let Kenny Golladay become a free agent ends with the talented wideout signing elsewhere, that only makes it less likely that the former Rams QB will live up to expectations with his new team.
Not using the franchise tag to at least retain Golladay’s rights represents a massive risk for the Lions. At the very least, they could have explored a tag-and-trade scenario to get back a 2021 draft pick. Instead, they will only net (at best) a 2022 compensatory third-round pick for losing him in free agency.
Given his value to the offense, it still seems illogical for a team that struggles to score points to even let Golladay go in the first place. He may not check all the boxes, but he certainly boasts many qualities of a true No. 1 WR. Does Detroit really want to risk going through the draft to try and find a replacement for a proven commodity?
Ultimately, a new regime means change. So even though Golladay deserves a long-term deal, he appears to have played his final snap for the Lions.
For Jared Goff’s sake, they better have a plan to replace a player who may soon become an even bigger star once he officially says goodbye to the city of Detroit.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.