Lions general manager Brad Holmes acknowledged this week that having a veteran quarterback under center for 2021 — for the start of what appears to be a major organizational rebuild — will allow him to take a more specific, focused approach to free agency.
The Lions agreed to send Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for Goff and three draft picks in January. Holmes cannot talk publicly about the deal until it becomes official at the start of the league year later this month.
“Having a veteran quarterback, obviously, it can shape some decisions in terms of my familiarity with him, knowing kind of what works best for him, what kind of he likes, what he kind of strives for,” Holmes said. “It does help shape things from a team-building standpoint in terms of adding tools, adding pieces that will fit his skill set.”
Holmes was the Rams’ director of college scouting when the team took Goff with the first pick of the 2016 NFL draft.
Goff sat for half of his rookie season, then took over as full-time starter in 2017. He led the Rams to the Super Bowl in 2018, but was deemed expendable after signing a four-year, $134 million extension in 2019. The extension starts this fall.
The Lions are committed to Goff for at least the 2021 season, when the 26-year-old is expected to start at quarterback.
“To have a veteran QB that’s won a lot of games, and I don’t want to say any specific names, I’m assuming we all know who we’re talking about,” Holmes said. “But obviously that player’s not on our roster now, but obviously I have a lot of knowledge. I know Jared very, very well.”
The Lions likely will not be major players in free agency, but they do need to overhaul their receiving corps and add backups at tight end and running back. With Goff coming aboard, they can make moves at those positions to complement his strengths.
In L.A., Goff proved to be an accurate short and intermediate passer, but struggled with turnovers at times and last season ranked near the bottom of the NFL in air yards per attempt.
The Lions already have added one free agent receiver, Tyrell Williams, in a deal that is pending Williams passing his physical next week. They still need to add multiple receivers through free agency, trade or the draft, and could look to some of Goff’s former favorite targets — pending free agents receiver Josh Reynolds, tight end Gerald Everett and running back Malcolm Brown ranked among the Rams’ top-six pass catchers last season — to fill holes.
Lions receivers Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Mohamed Sanu and Jamal Agnew will be unrestricted free agents March 17, though the Lions could use the franchise tag to keep Golladay in Detroit
Beyond being able to tailor their skill position signings to their quarterback’s talents, Goff’s presence — and the timing of the Lions’ trade — means the Lions can sit out or be ultra selective in what could be an expensive quarterback market this offseason and allocate their limited financial resources to other areas of the team.
The Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson, Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson and New York Jets’ Sam Darnold could be on the move via trade, and as many as five quarterbacks could go in the top 10 of April’s draft.
Holmes did not rule out taking a quarterback with the No. 7 pick, but the Lions will not be major players at the position in free agency.
Dak Prescott is the best quarterback with an expiring contract for the second straight year, though he is expected to be franchised by the Dallas Cowboys. Jameis Winston, who played under new Lions head coach Dan Campbell last season with the New Orleans Saints, and Cam Newton are other top free agent quarterbacks.
Tyrod Taylor, who has started at quarterback for Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn with two different teams, also is a free agent, though the Lions have backups Chase Daniel and David Blough under contract.
Daniel also played under Campbell with the Saints in 2017.
Had the Lions not acquired a quarterback as part of their return for Stafford, they would have been looking to sign someone who could at least be a stopgap starter in the coming weeks.