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Lions tie themselves tighter to Jared Goff with recent contract move

It has become more likely that Goff will still be in Detroit in 2022

Divisional Round - Los Angeles Rams v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

I can’t say that I feel bad for a guy who will make over $100 million to play football, but I have concerns about what Jared Goff will be forced to deal with during his first season in Detroit. Though we knew it was coming for weeks, the Lions officially lost receiver Kenny Golladay when he signed with the New York Giants recently. The news came not longer after Marvin Jones, Detroit’s leading receiver in 2020, signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The Lions’ answer to these two losses has been to sign Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams, pairing them with tight end T.J. Hockenson and 2020 fifth round pick Quintez Cephus as Goff’s top pass-catching options next season.

The fact that Perriman has remained in the NFL is by itself a fascinating accomplishment, given that he was historically-unproductive with the Ravens in 2017 (Perriman caught 10 of 35 targets for 77 yards in 11 games) and his subsequent “breakout seasons” with the Browns, Bucs, and Jets have all come at the expensive of a low catch rate and a high rate of interceptions when targeting him. Last season, Perriman caught 30 of 60 targets for 505 yards, with three drops. Four of the throws in his direction ended up being intercepted.

Williams has averaged over 10 yards per target in each of his last three healthy seasons, but he hasn’t commanded more than 70 targets in any season since 2016 and he missed all of 2020.

It seems to me that Perriman, Williams, and Cephus should all be competing to be a team’s number three receiver but instead are being propped up as Goff’s top three receivers for 2021. It leaves a pretty big open-ended question of “Who is meant to be their one and two?” Of course, Hockenson represents Detroit’s number one weapon and running back D’Andre Swift would be number two, but Goff doesn’t appear to have any receivers near the level of Robert Woods or Cooper Kupp.

Let alone like his two best seasons in LA, when Goff was also throwing to Sammy Watkins or Brandin Cooks.

Despite the Lions’ lack of receiving talent and the certain uncertainties that come with first-year head coach Dan Campbell, a change to offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, and attempting to rebuild the offensive line with two 2020 rookies, Detroit has tied itself to Jared Goff through at least 2022 by converting $20 million of his base salary into a signing bonus.

The move saves the Lions $15 million for now, but adds a guaranteed $5 million to Goff’s cap hit in each of the following three years.

When the Rams traded Goff, they did so at the cost of a $24.7 million dead money hit. Now that the Lions have converted Goff’s 2021 salary into a bonus, they would incur a $30.5 million dead money hit if they released Goff next year. With only $500,000 in savings.

Jared Goff will have a $31.15 million cap hit in 2022 and that will be with him coming off of his first season in Detroit rather than his last season with LA. Goff’s last season with the Rams got him traded and he was working with a much better supporting cast. He’ll need to improve — with less around him — if the Lions want to avoid having their own difficult Jared Goff decision in a year.

One way for Detroit to combat this would be to draft a pass-catching weapon with the seventh overall pick this year. As such, many have mocked Alabama’s Devonta Smith, LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, or Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle to the Lions in the top-10. If they pick the right receiver, it could be that Goff will have a decent array of skill players and a competent offensive line to protect him.

If not, it will be more interesting to see how the Lions get out of this Goff contract than seeing how the Rams got out of the last version of it.