Los Angeles Rams: Why a Jared Goff trade makes sense in 2021

Could a Jared Goff trade happen in 2021 even though the Los Angeles Rams gave him a huge contract extension? Yes. Yes, it very well could.

By Matt Fitzgerald
Dec 20, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) throws the ball in the first quarter against the New York Jets at SoFi Stadium. The Jets defeated the Rams 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams have thrived during the Sean McVay era, but it’s becoming clearer by the day that an upgrade at quarterback is necessary. Thus, a Jared Goff trade prior to the 2021 campaign could definitely be on the horizon.

Sound ridiculous? Why? Because Goff’s contract is too massive? Because he’s 42-19 as a starter under McVay? Because starting over is too risky, and things are going well enough with Goff as they are?

Potentially valid points. Regardless, humor yourself with this speculation. Much to the surprise of yours truly, this scenario isn’t as implausible as it might seem.

Jared Goff trade: Los Angeles Rams aren’t averse to risk

Los Angeles GM Les Snead's history suggests he won't hesitate to swing Jared Goff trade
Apr 23, 2019; Thousand Oaks, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams general manager Les Snead (left) and coach Sean McVay address the media at a press conference at Cal Lutheran University prior to the 2019 NFL Draft. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If we know anything about the Rams front office and general manager Les Snead, the team isn’t shy about sacrificing tomorrow’s assets to get better today. Heck, they made a bold move up in the draft just to select Goff No. 1 overall in the first place.

That was just the tip of the iceberg for what Snead had in store. Even McVay’s hiring was at first a seemingly head-scratching choice, considering he was only 30 years old at the time.

It appears the Rams are destined for the playoffs for the third time in four years, so from a team perspective, those splashy acquisitions have ultimately paid off.

To bolster the secondary, L.A. traded two first-round picks for cornerback Jalen Ramsey, which has largely been a massive success. They’ve even, in the past, traded a first-rounder for receiver Brandin Cooks, who had a career-high 1,204 yards receiving in 2018, helping the team advance to the Super Bowl.

Given that track record of maneuvers just in the Goff-McVay years, is it so far-fetched that Los Angeles’ current signal-caller could be shipped out of town if a seemingly obvious upgrade is available?

Jared Goff trade: Los Angeles Rams QB is declining

Jared Goff trade: Los Angeles Rams QB is declining
Dec 10, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) throws a pass to wide receiver Robert Woods (lower left) against the New England Patriots during the third quarter at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

None of this is a knee-jerk reaction to Goff failing to beat the previously 0-13 New York Jets.

Before McVay arrived, Goff was a mess as a rookie, going 0-7 as a starter and looking like an immediate bust. Once McVay exploded onto the scene, Goff shined in his first two full seasons under center, posting a passer rating over 100 and averaging well over eight yards per pass attempt with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 50-to-19.

Since then? Mostly a mess. The 2019 campaign saw the Rams beset by injuries on the offensive line, which really put a wrench in the immobile Goff’s ability to operate. He threw 22 touchdowns against 16 picks, fumbled seven times and had an 86.5 passer rating.

OK, maybe that was a mirage. Turns out it wasn’t. Even this year, with L.A. boasting one of the NFL’s best defenses under coordinator Brandon Staley and a much-improved rushing attack, Goff has been a liability. Entering Week 16, the 26-year-old had 20 touchdown tosses, 12 interceptions and a 92.4 passer rating that ranks 24th among 36 qualifiers.

Mind you, this is while operating a system masterminded by the most brilliant young head coach of the modern era in McVay. How is that not a red flag, and an obvious indication that it’s time to move on after witnessing a four-season sample size?

Jared Goff trade: Why it’s financially right for Los Angeles Rams

Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff trade makes financial sense
Dec 16, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) reacts after throwing an interception during the second half against the Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to a four-year contract extension worth $134 million that kicks in at the start of 2021, Goff’s deal is widely viewed as untradeable. However, according to Over The Cap’s calculator, the savings Los Angeles would enjoy if Goff is traded after June 1 amounts to $27.825 million.

Wow. Why wouldn’t they do this? Here’s the kicker: the 2021 NFL draft is slated to take place on April 29. If Snead and Co. wanted to maneuver and draft Goff’s successor in the first round, they wouldn’t be able to package him as part of the deal without incurring a big cap hit for 2021. The Rams are already projected to be $27 million over the cap next season. Easy to see where the problems lie here.

On the other hand, riding out a tense month or so before it makes financial sense to deal Goff away should be worth it in the long run. The cap ceiling has been lowered a ton primarily due to COVID-19, and is slated to spike in a big way for the 2022 season. Not having Goff’s exorbitant contract will increase LA’s cap flexibility in the coming years, and a cheaper option is definitely attainable either through the draft or a trade.

If a Goff deal is in the works leading up to the draft, don’t be shocked to see the Rams be proactive and move up for a quarterback like Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Mac Jones or Kyle Trask. They could even trade for someone still on a rookie contract, such as Sam Darnold of the Jets or Jacksonville Jaguars young gun Gardner Minshew.

Related: 2021 NFL mock draft – New York Jets rebuild offense, surprise team trades up for QB in 2021 NFL Draft.

Jared Goff trade: Potential destinations for Los Angeles Rams QB

Indianapolis Colts

Jared Goff trade: Could Los Angeles Rams deal QB to Colts?
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers (17) shows dejection after throwing a pass that was intercepted, while head coach Frank Reich walks alongside him, during the fourth quarter of the NFL week 5 game at First Energy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020. The Browns won, 32-23. Indianapolis Colts At Browns At First Energy Stadium. Credit: Jenna Watson/IndyStar via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Frank Reich is one of the most underrated, excellent coaches in all of football. Like McVay does in L.A., Reich calls the plays in Indianapolis — and has helped Philip Rivers find the fountain of youth this season. However, Rivers just turned 39, and the Colts could really use some extra juice at the position. That’s where Goff could easily step in and present a potential improvement under center.

Given how awful Carson Wentz has looked in Philadelphia since Reich left the Eagles staff, it’s clear the coach has a serious knack for getting the most out of anyone who runs an offense.

Plus, the Colts are one of the few teams with enough cap space to take on Goff’s hefty contract, and they’d solve their QB dilemma without having to sacrifice draft assets to move up and pick a younger player.

The entire premise of this article suggests that Goff will flop whether he remains in Los Angeles or not. In the event he goes to play for Reich, though, perhaps the change of scenery could lead Goff to change course and play the best football of his NFL career.

Related: Indianapolis Colts rumors: Carson Wentz could be option for team in 2021

Washington Football Team

As opposed to going to a stable, strong organization in Indianapolis, this move to the nation’s capital wouldn’t be the most ideal scenario for Goff’s next step.

The Football Team leads in the NFC East, and has a great chance of winning the putrid division despite a 6-8 record to date. They have no reason to count on Dwayne Haskins as the future of the franchise, and Alex Smith’s comeback story feels like it’ll be limited to 2020, which in and of itself is inspiring and miraculous.

With all that as context, though, Washington needs to address the quarterback position. At this point, Haskins, Smith and Kyle Allen aren’t going to cut it, nor is somebody the Football Team might get later in the 2021 draft.

As long as Washington makes the proper salary cap maneuvers, they’d have space to trade for Goff in 2021. The standard for quarterback play hasn’t been set too high, and Goff would at least face some weak competition in the division while he gets settled into his role as the Football Team’s long-term field general.

Related: Washington Football Team: Dwayne Haskins keeps sabotaging chance to be franchise quarterback

Pittsburgh Steelers

In the midst of a woeful December, there’s reason to believe this could be Ben Roethlisberger’s final season. His contract runs through 2021, yet the Steelers are reeling on a three-game losing streak off an 11-0 start to this season.

If 2019 proved anything, it’s that Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges aren’t NFL quarterbacks. Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin did a miraculous job to guide that group to an 8-8 record. Strangely, things are slipping away fast with Big Ben, who turns 39 in March.

Whatever his flaws may be, Goff feels like a superior option to Roethlisberger at this point, and a successor Steelers fans could get behind. The roster is stocked with plenty of young receiving talent in Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and James Washington, who are all guaranteed to return next year. Even if JuJu Smith-Schuster leaves in free agency, there are other ways Pittsburgh can go about upgrading its offensive weaponry.

With an elite defense to support him on the Steelers, Goff would have a similar backdrop to what he’s enjoyed with the Rams in 2020.

Related: NFL Power Rankings – Ranking each team for NFL Playoffs.