Matthew Stafford indeed is coming to the NFC West — just not to the 49ers, as had been hotly rumored since he and the Detroit Lions went public last week about an eventual split.
Stafford, instead, is being traded to the Los Angeles Rams. In exchange, the Lions get a steep pile of draft picks plus Jared Goff, the Novato native and former Cal quarterback drafted No. 1 overall by the Rams in 2016.
That price tag — a 2022 and 2023 first-round picks plus a 2021 third-rounder — was surely too steep for the 49ers, who only a year ago went to the Super Bowl with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback.
So it’s Stafford to the Rams, Goff to the Lions and, for now, Garoppolo stays with the 49ers — just as coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have been saying.
The Rams-Lions trade can’t become official until March 17, the start of the NFL’s new fiscal year. ESPN was first to report the trade.
Speculation is sure to resume about possible alternatives for the 49ers, who, more likely, could eye a quarterback in the NFL draft, where they’re expected to have 10 picks, starting with the 12th overall.
Garoppolo’s health woes in 2018 (knee) and 2020 (ankle) are enough to concern the 49ers about his durability and/or injury luck, not to mention his scarce threat of deep passes.
If Stafford could command such a bounty, then the Houston Texans should be looking at a much bigger payoff if they reverse course and cave to Deshaun Watson’s trade demands.
Several other high-profile quarterbacks also could be on the move in what could become the NFL’s wildest offseason ever, amid a reduced salary cap because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those financial hurdles didn’t deter the Rams and Lions, but it likely will keep two former Shanahan quarterbacks in place, those being Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons) and Kirk Cousins (Minnesota Vikings).
What would have made Stafford, 0-3 in the playoffs, so appealing after a dozen seasons in Detroit’s dungeon? Well, seven or eight teams bid for him, according to Chris Burke of The Athletic.
A week shy of his 33rd birthday, Stafford’s right arm isn’t showing signs of wear. He’s produced the 16th-most yards (45,109) and touchdowns (282) in NFL history. His interception rate is low (2.3 percent); Garoppolo’s is 2.7 percent and Nick Mullens 3.7.
Stafford threw for over 4,000 yards this season for the eighth time in his career. The 49ers have had only three 4,000-yard seasons in their history, from Steve Young (1993, ’98) and Jeff Garcia (2000).
Now Stafford takes over a Rams’ franchise two years removed from the Super Bowl.
And Goff, 26, heads out of state for the first time. The kid from Marin Catholic High signed a four-year, $134 million extension in September 2019, and he $43 million guaranteed remaining on a deal that will cost the Rams a $22.2 million hit in salary cap space.
Goff won three of his first four games against the 49ers, his childhood team. But he failed to prevent the Rams from getting swept each of the past two seasons by the 49ers, who struggled to a 6-10 record last season while Garoppolo missed all but 10 starts because of high ankle sprains.
Shanahan repeatedly stated for months that the 49ers were committed to Garoppolo, but the coach left wiggle room in that endorsement.
“We better have a very good answer if you’re going to find somebody better than that,” Shanahan said Dec. 28. “Because Jimmy’s shown in one year, he’s somebody who can take us to the Super Bowl, and I also think Jimmy’s going to get a lot better the more he plays.”
Problem is, Garoppolo hasn’t played enough because of injuries. His 5-0 December debut in 2017 convinced the 49ers to award him a then-record deal (five years, $137.5 million). A Week 3 ACL tear on a Kansas City sideline run ruined Garoppolo’s 2018 season, and the 49ers spiraled to a 4-12 record.
Garoppolo’s past season got doomed in Week 2, when a New York Jets’ sack injured his right ankle. He started only four other games all season, none after a Nov. 1 exit in Seattle, and the 49ers floundered to a 6-10 record in vacating their NFC throne.
Garoppolo’s record as the 49ers’ starter: 22-8. Without him: 7-27 since Shanahan’s arrival in 2017. (The 49ers went 7-25 the previous two years, in 2015-16).
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Author: Cam Inman