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2021 NFL free agents: Is there hope of a Matthew Stafford-Kenny Golladay reunion in LA?

The Rams don’t seem to have the resources, but Golladay and Stafford have a special connection

Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

I should have done this in early February, but on Tuesday morning I finally organized all of the 2021 NFL Draft and 2021 NFL Free Agency posts into groups that you can now easily browse on the front page. I’ve included all of the scouting report fanposts in there too, so there should be hours of content to browse if you haven’t already. These are now available on the front page, like so:

This particular post will now join the “free agency” group because it is about Kenny Golladay. Though there seem to be few avenues that would allow the Rams and Golladay to form a pact on a long-term agreement this offseason, his connection to LA’s quarterback is too good to completely leave off of the table.

In mid-November, the USA Today blog Lions Wire noted that Golladay was tied for dead last in yards of separation per route run with 1921 Pro Bowler A.J. Green.

Golladay averages 1.8 yards of separation per route run. That figure ties him with Cincinnati’s A.J. Green for the lowest average. But Green starts with less average cushion. Golladay gets 5.6 yards of cushion on average, while Green faces more presses and jams at his 4.8-yard cushion. Defenses know Golladay won’t separate after his release, so they see no need to jam him. He also finished dead last in average separation per route in 2019 at 1.9, per Next Gen Stats.

That doesn’t seem good, but the 6’4, 214-pound receiver was a productive number one receiver from 2018-2019 and he was posting career-highs in catch rate and yards-per-target in 2020 prior to being injured and missing all but five games. How could have had 155 receptions and 2,591 yards with 18 touchdowns over his previous 36 games if he wasn’t getting open?

His relationship with Matthew Stafford had something to do with it.

Getting separation is not how Golladay wins. He uses his size, strength and the chemistry he’s developed with QB Matthew Stafford to make contested catches in tight throwing windows. There might not be anyone better at that than Golladay.

Golladay may have missed 11 games last season, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he will come at a discount. Allen Robinson hit free agency in 2018 after missing the entire season in 2017 and he signed a three-year, $48 million contract with the Bears. Golladay has been more productive and better statistically over his previous three seasons than what Robinson had been in his three seasons prior to going to Chicago.

The Lions may choose to give Golladay the franchise tag and that’s been the main area of focus in Detroit since completing the Stafford trade with the Rams. But as we’ve seen recently, teams are open to tag-and-trade scenarios too. In the case of a tag-and-trade, LA would seem to be out of options, what more could the Lions take from them? Their literal draft card? But Les Snead was rumored to be interested in a Zach Ertz deal, so we can’t rule anything out until all the deadlines have been met.

When the Rams extended Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods last September, nobody knew that Stafford would be the quarterback by February. Kupp and Woods are going to be on the team next season and while Golladay would give the Rams a “tall” look that they don’t currently have, it would be hard to fathom the team shelling out the money for a third starting receiver.

Another Lions free agent receiver — all but one is currently set to hit the market — is Marvin Jones and he would qualify as a more affordable and realistic option than Golladay. But if Golladay somehow sees his best chance at success involves sticking by Stafford, then anything is possible.