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What roles will players from ‘the trade’ have in Rams-Lions wild card?

Besides Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff, who else has a part in the trade that swapped them in 2021?

NFL: Detroit Lions at Los Angeles Rams Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The deal commonly known as “the Matthew Stafford trade” is the rare win-win, as the Los Angeles Rams were able to win the Super Bowl and the Detroit Lions were also aided by the deal, winning their division for the first time in 30 years. Now three seasons later, the Lions are hosting the Rams in the wild card round and some bitter fans would even argue that this is Stafford’s fourth career opportunity to prevent Detroit from winning a playoff game.

Or it could be Goff’s first chance to sink the Rams’ title hopes since Super Bowl LIII.

Though Stafford and Goff were the veterans involved in the trade, there were also three draft picks that went to Detroit and the Lions moved those pieces around to eventually end up with five players who are currently on the roster. These are the picks that came out of the trade, plus Stafford and Goff.

QB Jared Goff

Also known as “the throw-in” part of the trade that some assumed would lead to an early release from his contract, Goff has since instead become the most integral piece of the deal that went back to Detroit. Not only has Goff earned the respect of his peers, teammates, and more fans that he’s ever had before, he’s proving to be a more valuable asset sans Sean McVay than anyone but him could have predicted.

Goff’s stats match or surpass most of his numbers from the 2018 Super Bowl season:

2018-364/561, 65%, 4,688 yards, 32 TD, 12 INT, 8.4 Y/A, 101.1 rating, 63.6 QBR

2023-407/605, 67%, 4,575 yards, 30 TD, 12 INT, 7.6 Y/A, 97.9 rating, 59.8

Clearly Lions GM Brad Holmes, who was involved in drafting Goff to the Rams in the first place, suspected that McVay wasn’t the only one with secret sauce to make the quarterback successful. With the right pieces in place and the right playcaller, if Goff did it once he could do it again.

So Holmes drafted players like Penei Sewell and Amon-Ra St. Brown and Jahmyr Gibbs and Sam LaPorta, two of whom were acquired via the Stafford trade, and the Lions landed offensive coordinator Ben Johnson.

He’s as good now as he was then. Which is to say that Goff is not an elite quarterback, but he’s good enough in the right situation.

Goff may not end up as the best return on the trade. He’s been way more than a throw-in and Goff is probable to earn another lucrative extension after the season.

S Ifeatu Melifonwu

Without a first round pick to offer in 2021, the best Les Snead could do was the team’s third round pick that year. Holmes used it to select Melifonwu with the 101st pick out of Syracuse and only very recently did Detroit get a good return on investment.

Melifonwu picked off his first two career passes in Week 16 and Week 17, helping the Lions beat the Vikings with his interception and two sacks.

It seemed like a foregone conclusion that Melifonwu was one guy from the trade who might not have a high ceiling and now he is set to play a starting role in the wild card game.

WR Jameson Williams

The Rams sent pick 32—the best possible outcome—to the Lions in 2022 after winning the Super Bowl. Detroit had the second overall pick after only winning three games and selected Aidan Hutchinson, but Holmes was not satisfied and moved up 20 spots to select Jameson Williams out of Alabama, the first receiver off the board.

Williams was electrifying at Alabama, gaining 1,572 yards and scoring 15 touchdowns as a junior transfer from Ohio State, but tore his ACL and was forced to miss the pre-draft testing process. Still, the film and speed was too good for Holmes to pass up, so he traded picks 32, 34, and 66 for 12 and 46.

In a way we could add edge rusher Josh Paschal to the trade. However, the real move here is that Detroit used the pick #32 to get Williams and basically traded 34 and 66 to use on Paschal.

Williams missed almost all of his rookie season while recovering from surgery and he was slow to return to action after he was suspended six games for violating the league’s gambling policy. Williams has typically been good for roughly two catches and 40 yards, but is a threat to score from anywhere on the field.

RB Jahmyr Gibbs

Another trade, another Alabama transfer picked in the first round. Holmes got back pick #6 in 2023 after the Rams dropped to 5-12, then he decided to trade back with the Arizona Cardinals to add picks 34 and 168.

Now at #12, Holmes picked Gibbs out of Alabama and let’s just say he was excited to see Gibbs didn’t get picked at #11.

Gibbs has proven to be the asset that Holmes and Dan Campbell hoped he would be, rushing for 945 yards and 10 touchdowns in 15 games with 5.2 yards per carry. Gibbs also had 52 catches for 316 yards and another touchdown. He wasn’t even the Lions leading rusher, as David Montgomery had 1,015 yards and 13 touchdowns.

The Rams will have their hands full with Amon-Ra St. Brown, Montgomery, Sam LaPorta, and former Ram Josh Reynolds, as is. But then there’s Gibbs, who could score a game-winning touchdown at will if he catches the right angle.

TE Sam LaPorta

If you want to note that Holmes had to trade up for Williams and had to sacrifice capital to get him, then how about using the 2023 first round pick to trade down and get both Gibbs AND the NFL’s number one rookie tight end. In fact, LaPorta is already a Pro Bowl tight end and even has a case as an All-Pro.

Now, will he play?

LaPorta was injured in Week 18 and Campbell refuses to rule him out just yet. Most would be surprised if he plays, but who can really say?

LaPorta had 889 yards and 10 touchdowns as a rookie. He’s the ultimate threat at tight end.

DT Brodric Martin

The one other piece to the puzzle here is Martin, the final piece acquired from Arizona after the Lions traded the pick that they received from the Rams. Martin is a third round rookie who has not played much and isn’t expected to have a role in this game.

QB Matthew Stafford

Oh and then there’s the guy who the trade is named after.

Stafford made his second career Pro Bowl this year, overcoming the odds and leading L.A. to a playoff appearance again. Stafford has two playoff trips in three years after only getting three in 12 years with the Lions, proving that organizations do matter.

Stafford went 0-3 in the playoffs with Detroit and he’s currently 4-0 with the Rams.

Now he’ll be tasked with a trip back to Michigan to put a stop to their mission of ending a draught that dates back to 1991: That was the last time the Lions won a playoff game.

In fact, the Lions have only won ONE playoff game since 1958.

Is that the stuff of storybooks or nightmares?

Ask me again on Monday.