Why Jared Goff is getting $53 million a year and what it means for the Lions

NFL

DETROIT — Just two weeks into his second season with the Detroit Lions in September 2022, quarterback Jared Goff spent a rare in-season off day roaming the hallways of a local alternative middle school.

Upon entering Classroom No. 5 at Detroit Lions Academy, he interacted with students, even fielding questions in the afternoon before unveiling a new STEAM lab for the school.

“Do you ever think about switching teams?” one student asked.

“I hope not,” Goff responded. “I hope to be around for a long time. I enjoy you guys. I enjoy the team, and I enjoy the city.”

Goff is getting his wish. Since being traded from the Los Angeles Rams for longtime Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in January 2021, Goff has revitalized his NFL career with Detroit. Now, the Lions have rewarded him with a contract extension worth $212 million over four years that includes $170 million guaranteed. It makes Goff, who will be 34 when the deal expires, the highest-paid player in franchise history.

The $53 million average annual salary in Goff’s new deal makes him the second highest-paid quarterback in the NFL, behind only the Cincinnati Bengals’ Joe Burrow ($55 million).

The deal comes weeks after the Lions locked up wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown to a four-year, $120.01 million extension and offensive tackle Penei Sewell to a four-year, $112 million deal.

Goff, who is entering his ninth NFL season, helped the Lions reach the NFC Championship Game while becoming the third quarterback in franchise history to record multiple playoff wins.

Here’s more context around Goff’s new deal:

What does this mean for the Lions?

Lions general manager Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell have insisted they never considered Goff to be a bridge quarterback when they traded for him in 2021. And this extension is proof that Goff is their guy, and they believe they can win a Super Bowl with him as their starter.

The former No. 1 overall pick in 2016 led the Lions to their first conference championship since 1991 last season, passing for 4,575 yards and 30 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. In 2023, the Lions selected Hendon Hooker as the franchise’s highest-drafted QB since Stafford went first overall in 2009, but he was taken to compete as Goff’s primary backup in the 2024 season after recovering from a knee injury suffered in college, and as a security blanket for the future, so Goff has no reason to be looking over his shoulder.

“I’ve always had belief in Jared. You guys have always heard me,” Holmes said during his end-of-the-year news conference. “I don’t know what more needs to be said from a leadership or performance standpoint, or what more he needs to do in that regard. But, in terms of the belief as always, I think I said this to you guys before is that he got drafted in ’16 and he wasn’t the full-time starter, but ’17 was his first year as a full-time starter and he made the playoffs. Got exited versus the Falcons that year, but the second year as a full-time starter, he went to a Super Bowl.

“And what I didn’t understand, I didn’t understand why his career was defined after he went to a Super Bowl a second year as a full-time starter,” Holmes said. “And so, then when he came to us, I always had belief. So, him doing what he did this past year or even the year before, it’s not a surprise to us.”

What does this mean for Goff?

Although it’s unlikely Goff will admit this publicly, this extension has to be a confidence booster after an unpleasant exit from the Rams. Goff has changed the narrative of his career in Detroit. In April, Goff told the Willbo’s “Trading Cards” podcast that the trade that sent him to Detroit has worked out perfectly.

“In hindsight, it’s the greatest thing to ever happen to me, for my career and my development as a human,” he said.

So even bigger than a football perspective, the extension signifies a career renaissance. On the field, he’ll be earning a hefty payday as well, and his teammates believe in his ability to lead. The expectation now is to win a Super Bowl.

Inside the locker room after Goff led Detroit to its first playoff win since 1992 over his former Rams team, a fired-up Campbell tossed him the game ball.

“You’re good enough for f—ing Detroit, Jared Goff,” Campbell bellowed.

What does this mean for the Lions’ Super Bowl window?

The time is now. And all of the pieces are in place with their quarterback situation set throughout this stretch. For the first time in years, the organization is being built to sustain winning.

No longer is this organization the laughingstock of the league. Holmes and Campbell have surrounded Goff with the right pieces, notably through the draft, and it’s up to him to keep the momentum going.

Last season, Goff helped the Lions win two playoff games in a single postseason for the first time since 1957, while collecting their first division title in more than three decades. But nobody is satisfied.

“I don’t want anybody to think that this was a one-shot, Cinderella, magical journey that just happened,” Holmes said at his end-of-season news conference. “No, it’s real. This is exactly what was supposed to happen, and I understand that based on history, from what’s happened in the past. I understand if you have a season like this, it’s easy to feel like this was kind of a one-shot, magical, lucky, cute story. Which I’m tired of hearing. It was none of that.”

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