Seahawks, NFC West notice Stafford trade to Rams for Jared Goff

By Gregg Bell

The News Tribune

Quandre Diggs is sorry to see Jared Goff leave the NFC West.

The Seahawks’ Pro Bowl safety has four interceptions in his last five games facing Goff. That includes a two-pick game in Los Angeles in the 2019 season, his first time facing the Rams after Diggs’ trade from Detroit to Seattle two seasons ago.

Now Diggs and the rest of the NFC West are hoping they aren’t sorry to see his old friend Matthew Stafford coming to the division.

This past week brought ripples of change in the West — then one, seismic deal.

The Seahawks took two coaches away from the Rams. Seattle made Shane Waldron its new offensive coordinator and Andy Dickerson its new run-game coordinator.

Then Saturday the Rams changed the competitive balance of the entire division, by changing at the sport’s most valuable position.

Los Angeles traded Goff and two first-round draft choices to the Lions Saturday. The return: Matthew Stafford, Detroit’s starting quarterback since 2009, is the new trigger man for Rams coach Sean McVay’s quick, play-action passing attack.

The bold swap of former first-overall picks is the first of its kind in the common-draft era. That dates to 1967.

Diggs’ is already onto his former Lions co-captain being a new rival in the West. He wrote with some glee on his Twitter account Saturday night after news broke of Stafford’s trade to the Rams.

“Guess I gotta pick 9 off!” Diggs posted online.

The trade means Russell Wilson in Seattle joins Aaron Rodgers with Green Bay, Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh and Matt Ryan in Atlanta as the only QBs who were starting for their teams in 2013 that are still starting for them now.

All have played in the Super Bowl. All but Ryan have won it.

It’s a high-stakes dice roll for the Rams.

The deal appears to hugely favor for the Lions over the long term. They are rebuilding with a new coach, new coaching staff, new general manager and now a new quarterback seven years younger making franchise-player money. They got first-round draft choices in 2022 and ‘23. They can restock their team for the longer haul with those. Plus, Detroit can get out of Goff’s contract after two years. That’s when the guaranteed money on his $134 million contract ends. The final two seasons of Goff’s deal aren’t guaranteed.

Stafford turns 33 next weekend. He has two seasons remaining on his $135 million Lions contract the Rams are inheriting. Interestingly, they did not or could not sign Stafford to a longer-term extension beyond 2022 when making this trade.

They were giving up enough already.

But the Rams win this deal for the now.

They are going for it while they have Donald and All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey leading their dominant defense. Los Angeles has become the favorite to win the NFC West next season. Stafford is now paired with an elite, championship-caliber defense that ranked first in the NFL throughout 2020.

The Seahawks can’t count on the Rams’ quarterback making game-changing mistakes anymore.

Stafford doesn’t make those that Goff made the last two seasons. That’s the reason McVay and the Rams suddenly ditched their Super Bowl QB before his contract extension even kicked in.

Goff has committed 38 turnovers the last two years, second-most in the NFL. Stafford has just half as many turnovers in that span: 15 interceptions and four lost fumbles.

And Stafford wasn’t playing for the playoff team Goff was. Stafford was starting for the Lions while they were going 8-23-1 combined the last two seasons.

In the hours after the Goff-Stafford trade, the online site updated its (way-too-early) odds to win Super Bowl 56 next year. The Rams getting Stafford and shedding Goff moved L.A. from 18/1, to 10/1, to the third favorite in the NFL.

Only Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9/1) are listed as a better (barely) favorite in the NFC for 2021 than the Rams The Bucs are getting ready to play in this season’s Super Bowl on Sunday against Kansas City. The Chiefs are the odds-on favorite to win it all next season at 6/1.

The Seahawks are third in odds for next season — within the NFC West. San Francisco is 18/1 to win next year’s Super Bowl. Seattle is 20/1.

Financially, Stafford’s next two years being non-guaranteed gives the Rams an out. If he isn’t running McVay’s and the Rams’ offense much better than Goff was, L.A. could cut Stafford after 2021 and save $20 million on its salary cap for 2022.

And the Rams still will be rid of Goff’s contract, too.

It was obvious when undrafted and unheard-of John Wolford took the field with Los Angeles’ offense to start the Seahawks’ wild-card playoff game three weeks ago that the Rams had given up on Goff. Goff had told his coaches and team in the days leading up to that playoff game in Seattle he was ready to play following surgery in late December to repair a broken thumb. He practiced all that week.

The Rams and McVay instead chose to start Wolford, whose only other starting experience as a professional was for the Arizona Hotshots of the Alliance of American Football league. Seahawks safety Jamal Adams’ legal hit on Wolford while the QB scrambled in the first quarterback knocked Wolford out of the game with a neck injury.

The Rams then had to play Goff. He was their only other quarterback active for the game.

Los Angeles beat the Seahawks on Jan. 9 not because of Goff, but because of Aaron Donald and friends sacking Wilson five times, Darious Williams intercepting Wilson and returning it or a touchdown and the Rams’ defense limiting Wilson to a season-low 11 completions. Goff completed just 9 of 19 passes for 155 yards in Seattle.

The following week in the divisional round at Green Bay, Goff threw for only 174 yards and was sacked four times. L.A. gained just 244 total yards and lost to the Packers 32-18.

After that game McVay was non-committal about Goff being the Rams’ starter for the 2021 season.

The trade for Stafford rids the Rams of not only Goff’s mistakes but also his massive contract. The Rams eat $22.2 million in dead money on that $134 million deal they mistakenly gave him before the 2019 season. L.A. saves $12.75 million in cap money this year for Goff, but Stafford’s cap charge is scheduled to be $33 million in 2021.

With Stafford the Rams gain the man with the third-highest average for yards passing per game (273.4) among all active NFL quarterbacks. Stafford is seventh among active QBs in total yards passing (45,109) and touchdown throws (282). That’s despite him playing for the woeful Lions. They made the playoffs just three times in his 12 seasons in Detroit.

Stafford has never won a playoff game. Goff took the Rams to the Super Bowl in the 2017 season.

Stafford has just five wins in 16 career games against the Seahawks, Cardinals and 49ers, the teams he’s coming to L.A. to beat inside the NFC West. Then again, many of Stafford’s Lions teams couldn’t beat any division consistently the last dozen years.

He is 1-4 in his career against the Seahawks. That includes a loss in the playoffs at Seattle in January 2017. Stafford has a middling passer rating of 73.5 in his career against the Seahawks. He has seven touchdown passes, seven interceptions and 10 sacks in those five games against Seattle.

Goff was 7-4 as a starter for Los Angeles against the Seahawks — though again, that usually had more to do with Donald and the Rams’ defense than their inconsistent quarterback.

The deal means the Rams still will not have a first-round pick until 2024. The last time they drafted in the first round was in 2016 — when they traded up from 15 to 1 and took Goff.

The trade also keeps the 49ers from getting Stafford.

San Francisco was one of six teams that reportedly tried to trade for Stafford once he and the Lions decided their partnership was over this month. The others included Washington, Indianapolis, Denver, Washington and Carolina. The 49ers reportedly offered a first-round pick. So did Washington.

The Rams are believed to be the only one to offer multiple first-round picks.

So Jimmy Garoppolo remains in limbo as the starting quarterback, with the 49ers. For now.

The Rams did on Saturday what the Seahawks did last summer. They traded two first-round picks and a veteran starter for a player they believe can fix the unit that’s been holding them back in the postseason.

Seattle did it to get All-Pro safety Adams from the New York Jets. Adams had 9 1/2 sacks in his Seahawks debut season playing through four injuries — a torn labrum in his shoulder, a strained groin, an injured AC joint in his other shoulder and two broken fingers. He set an NFL record for sacks in a season by a defensive backs in 2020.

But Adams is not a quarterback. And it was Seattle’s offense, not defense, that failed it by season’s end.

The Rams went all in, at the expense of their future, to fix theirs — quarterback and offense.

The entire NFC West notices.