Matthew Stafford trade regrade: Where things stand before Lions legend’s playoff return

After spending his first 12 seasons with the Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford will be back at Ford Field tonight, only as a visitor for the first time in his career. This presents an opportunity to regrade the trade that sent the Lions legend to the Rams.

Detroit Lions v Los Angeles Rams
Detroit Lions v Los Angeles Rams / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages

Tonight, current Los Angeles Rams quarterback and former Detroit Lions legend Matthew Stafford will be playing the first game of his career at Ford Field as a visitor. Regarded as the most accomplished signal-caller in Lions franchise history, this exciting storyline and matchup gives us a chance to reflect on the trade that sent Stafford to the Rams in 2021.

After losing to the Green Bay Packers in the 2020 NFC Divisional Round, the Rams felt as though they were one piece away from Super Bowl contention. So, that offseason, they sent quarterback Jared Goff, a 2021 third-round pick, and first-round picks in 2022 and 2023 to acquire Stafford from the Lions.

Lo and behold, the Rams were right. In Stafford’s first season in Los Angeles, he led the franchise to their second-ever Super Bowl victory. Since being selected with the first overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Stafford has always been regarded as a high-end passer of the football who just never had the pieces in place around him to succeed with the Lions. That all changed when he joined the Rams and it led to instant success.

At the time, Goff was widely viewed as a bridge quarterback for Detroit as they began life in the post-Stafford era. However, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft has played a crucial role in the Lions culture shift and rebuild as a player who had a winning pedigree during his tenure with the Rams. 

Goff has now led the Lions to consecutive winning seasons, a feat the franchise hadn’t accomplished. Additionally, Goff guided Detroit to a divisional crown in 2023, something they haven’t done since 1993. Now, Goff and the team have a chance to reach another franchise milestone by beating Stafford and the Rams to win their first home playoff game since 1992.

Trade between the Los Angeles Rams and Detroit Lions is a rare win-win

The deal that sent Stafford to the Rams and Goff to the Lions proved to be one of the rare win-win trade scenarios in sports history. The city of Los Angeles got a Super Bowl win, solidifying Stafford’s legacy as an all-time great quarterback in the process. While Goff has helped change the narrative in Detroit.

In addition to Goff, the Lions turned the draft capital they received into valuable contributors and potential franchise cornerstones. They converted the assets received from the deal into rookie Pro Bowl tight end Sam LaPorta, running back Jahmyr Gibbs, wide receiver Jameson Williams, defensive end Joshua Pascal, safety Ifeatu Melifonwu, and defensive tackle Brodric Martin.

Stafford gave everything he had to the city of Detroit in his 12 years with the Lions. Even without playing for them, he has found ways to help the team expedite their rebuilding process by the haul they received to trade him to the Rams. And no matter how many Pro Bowlers they gave up to get Stafford, they’d do it 100 times over again if they knew it yielded them a Super Bowl win. 

Detroit Lions trade grade: A | Los Angeles Rams trade grade: A+

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