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Rams go ritzy again, spending big on Matthew Stafford in hopes of a Super Bowl title for Los Angeles

Dan Wetzel
·Columnist
·5-min read

Like a Hollywood heiress after an afternoon downing Aperol Spritz on the cobblestone patio of 208 Rodeo, the Los Angeles Rams appear to have a fairly simple philosophy when it comes to shopping.

It sure isn’t cost, or last year’s fashions. As for the future? Please. What’s that?

This is a franchise that built a $5 billion stadium just to come to town. The Rams hired their current coach when he was 30. When they first became enamored with Jared Goff before the 2016 NFL draft, they sent two first-round picks, two second-round picks and a third-rounder just to get him.

This despite Goff completing too few passes (62.3 percent at Cal) and throwing too many interceptions (13 his junior season alone) for a mid-pack Pac-12 team.

No matter, three years in they signed him to a $134 million contract extension.

Late Saturday night, they traded him, tossing him to Detroit like the Lions are a Salvation Army bin. Actually, it wasn’t even that easy of a discard. Charities don’t charge for donations.

L.A. wanted the Lions QB, Matthew Stafford. It believes improved play at that position will make use of a brilliant defense anchored by Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. The Rams think they are one player away from winning a Super Bowl.

Los Angeles wanted Matthew Stafford, so they went out and got him, price immaterial. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Los Angeles wanted Matthew Stafford, so it went out and got him, price immaterial. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

So they had to get Stafford, but they also had to get rid of Goff’s albatross of a salary cap-eating contract. To get Detroit to agree to accept both ends of the deal, the Rams had to sweeten the pot above and beyond a full-ask offer.

Detroit was said to be seeking one first-round pick, plus something else (maybe a second- or third-round draft pick). Instead L.A. sent two firsts (2022, 2023) and a third (2021), plus their former No. 1 overall selection that they bet big on just two seasons ago.

That’s a nice haul for the latest Lions rebuild, and there is still a reasonable chance that Goff, at just 26, is a good quarterback for them.

The Rams are still trying to build their fan base since moving to California. That management will be aggressive in trying to build a winner should be a selling point. The front office won’t let past mistakes freeze it from risking new ones. The Rams want to win, now. They won’t sell season-ticket holders dwelling on things like “assets” and “draft capital.”

What more could you want? In a league where process is cherished, L.A. treats each season like a spin of a roulette wheel. First-round picks are breath mints, sweetening whatever deal it thinks it needs to get proven talent.

Thanks to numerous trades — most notably for Ramsey, a shutdown corner, and now Stafford — L.A. may go from 2016 (Goff) until 2024 without a first-round draft selection. If you could max out a credit card in the NFL, this is what it would look like. Some general managers would be hiding under the covers.

The Rams are all in, this year and pretty much every year. Maybe at some point this all goes bankrupt, but why worry about that right now? The Rams have had great success with mid-round draft picks, so things tend to work out. Besides, this is about the next season or two.

Stafford will be 33 for the 2021 campaign. He has delivered huge stats and admirable leadership across 12 seasons in Detroit. He also went 74-93-1 as a starter, never led the Lions to an NFC North title and was winless in three wild-card games.

Can he thrive in Los Angeles, with coach Sean McVay and a bunch of talent around him – namely Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp? There is no reason to think he won’t. The Lions have been a mostly mismanaged outfit during his tenure.

If Stafford can bring the Rams the Lombardi Trophy that Goff couldn’t when, two years ago, his offense only kicked a field goal in a 13-3 Super Bowl loss to New England, then no price was too high.

If nothing else, L.A. won’t be sitting around wishing it had done more to max out a roster with arguably the two best defensive players in football.

In some ways, Stafford is the anti-Goff. No matter what went bad around him in Detroit, Stafford avoided the blame. When things went well, though, he got the credit. For Goff, his good games were often seen as the product of McVay’s genius. His bad ones were all him. A fresh start in Detroit might be good for him, as well. Just pack a winter coat.

This trade is about the Rams though, about an organizational ethos that sees time as a commodity. There will be no slow and steady in L.A. There will be no, “good enough.”

Los Angeles won a playoff game this year, at Seattle in the wild-card round despite Goff being impacted by injury. Detroit has just one playoff victory since 1957 and none since 1992, but it’s the Rams that are the desperate dealers here, staring at 43 regular-season victories over the past four years and potentially overpaying to get more.

A new collection line is in the store windows, and in L.A. you’re either keeping up or you become irrelevant in the span of a TikTok video.

So out with Goff. In with Stafford.

As for the bill, that doesn't come today.

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