ALLEN PARK, Michigan. — The CEO of the New Detroit Lions, Brad Holmes, may not want to use the word reconstruction. During his opening press conference, he consistently refrained from using the R-word in favor of anything else: The changeover. That was before it was announced that his then-quarterback, Matthew Stafford, wanted to be changed.
It’s not the easiest way for Holmes to start his career. But in the first two weeks and more work, Holmes showed he was capable of putting together a blockbuster. That’s the only way to describe the deal that was struck Saturday night between the Lions and his former team, the Los Angeles Rams.
Stafford goes to Los Angeles and gets the chance to play for a direct rival. Lions make a first-round pick in 2022 and 2023, a third-round pick this year and currently at least one quarterback to Jared Goffe to create a new iteration of Lions.
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That may not be the appeal of a second round pick this season, but this decision shows Holmes and the franchise have a longer term perspective on how they build this team.
Detroit knew it had to deal with Stafford. It was clear. Stafford has spent more than a decade with the Lions and has experienced three head coaches, a pair of general managers and many, many offensive changes.
And when he turns 33, the desire to start over somewhere else – in a place where his family feels comfortable, in Southern California no less – trumps the Lions, who have always led the way in all major passing categories.
The fact that Detroit was able to get so much out of Los Angeles shows how much potential and insight Holmes had when he made his first big move as general manager. He will be judged on this move and what comes out of it, at least for his first few seasons as general manager.
Yes, the Lions should have accepted the huge contract of Goff, who was number one overall in 2016 and made 67 percent of his passes for 3,952 yards, 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions last season.
In some ways, Goff is the least important part of this deal for the Lions’ future, although if he can return to his 2017 and 2018 form when he was a professional bowler, he may end up being part of the long-term plans. Goff gives the Lions a quarterback for the foreseeable future as they try to build a cohesive team over time, whether Goff is a part of it or not.
A pro player in 2017 and 2018, Goff struggled to find his rhythm and was subject to personnel changes in 2019 and 2020. John McCoy/Getty Images
A source familiar with the situation stated that the ESPN-for-Goff exchange will not keep the Lions from taking the quarterback in this year’s draft. But that gives Detroit more flexibility in what it wants to do with the No. 7 pick, because the task facing Holmes and new coach Dan Campbell is not limited to one or two picks.
This initiative will be the beginning of rebuilding Lions, because it is more than just rebuilding. With plenty of holes on the roster – each position requires at least some depth or a boost in starting talent – Detroit could use as much startup capital as possible in the coming years.
And it certainly was. A well-known source in the negotiations said it was the best deal the Lions had on the table. This gives them a quarterback to evaluate on short notice and more choices for the next three seasons.
And these choices may be even more valuable in the years to come, since the research in Project 2021 was so different due to the pandemic of COWID. Grades will be tougher this year, and for a first-year Scout, while teaching and studying the board, Holmes made a smarter play. The first extra rounds of his second and third years as CEO, when his screening system is fully in place and screening – along with football and, more importantly, the world – will hopefully regain some of its former normalcy, have been a calm and intelligent move.
It’s entirely possible the Rams finish at the bottom of the first round if Los Angeles succeeds and Stafford runs the show, but that would create more capital for Holmes to maneuver. He has more assets for the package if he wants to move up, and more potential options if he wants to get back into the project.
But for now – or at least in March, when the new championship year begins – the Lions can officially begin their post-Stafford life. It’s gonna be weird. Things will be different. For what Detroit hopes to be, there will probably be a lot of knockoffs.
But they’re about to see Stafford. Lions and Rams are playing this season. Los Angeles.