NFL News & Analysis

Jared Goff's four-year, $212 million extension and what it means for the Detroit Lions

2WDN4HG Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff (16) throws a pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL football NFC divisional playoff game, Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

• Coming off the best year of his career: The Lions quarterback put up an 85.7 PFF grade last season, the best mark of his career, narrowly eclipsing the 84.3 he recorded back in 2018 in his best year with McVay.

• The Jared Goff dilemma: Within his season were two awful performances — both against the Chicago Bears — and two more below-average ones, all occurring within a seven-week stretch in the middle of the year.

• Get a head start on fantasy football: Use PFF's fantasy football mock draft simulator to create real live mock draft simulations to get ready for your live draft!

The Detroit Lions have handed Jared Goff a four-year contract extension worth over $200 million, with a massive $170 million guaranteed.

In terms of average annual salary, the new deal makes Goff the second highest-paid quarterback in the NFL and conclusively answers the question of what his contract would look like.

This is the second big contract Goff has been handed after being drafted No. 1 overall back in 2016. The Rams made the initial commitment to him after Sean McVay’s arrival revitalized Goff’s career, but they soon determined that Goff was not good enough to take the team where they needed to go, and his contract became a makeweight in a trade to acquire Matthew Stafford.

The Lions — likely influenced by general manager Brad Holmes’ time with the Rams — were essentially willing to take on Goff’s contract in order to secure better draft picks from the Rams in exchange for Stafford.

From the Rams’ point of view, the trade was a success. Stafford turbocharged an already successful offense, and the team won a Super Bowl championship. But the Lions also won thanks to the job Goff has done in rebuilding his career, this time under offensive coordinator Ben Johnson.

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The Lions quarterback put up an 85.7 PFF grade last season, the best mark of his career, narrowly eclipsing the 84.3 he recorded back in 2018 in his best year with McVay.

In 2018, that grade was enough to tie for eighth in the NFL, while last year’s mark was ninth. His 85.2 passing grade tied for sixth at the position last year.

This, in a nutshell, is the dilemma with Goff. His best play is very good, but over a season, his play tends to fall below the level of the truly elite quarterbacks who transform teams.

However, his 2023 campaign was a little more complicated than that one overall number. Within his season were two awful performances — both against the Chicago Bears — and two more below-average ones, all occurring within a seven-week stretch in the middle of the year.

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Outside of those four games, Goff’s season was genuinely elite. He recorded 19 turnover-worthy plays all year, including the playoffs, but 10 of them came in those four poor performances.

Goff actually did play like an All-Pro last season; it’s just that the wheels fell off for a month or so in the middle of the year. Those poor performances also resulted in three of the team’s five losses.

One thing that’s clear is that Goff and Ben Johnson form a fantastic partnership. Johnson has been one of the hottest head coaching candidates over the last two offseason cycles but has chosen to stay in Detroit on each occasion. It is hard to tell whether that has been driven by a lack of enthusiasm for the available jobs or (more unusually) an interest in remaining at his current level when all is going so well, but it seems likely that as long as Goff has his coordinator, we can expect high-level play from him.

A bigger question is what happens if a team eventually tempts Johnson away.

Jared Goff's percentile ranks in the stable metrics of quarterback play (2022-23)

We know that Goff can play excellent football within a good offense, but whether he can drive that offense forward is debatable. During his best seasons in Los Angeles, Goff was aggressive with the football and made a lot of big plays. For two straight seasons, he had a big-time throw rate over 5.0%, but last season’s 3.3% was the highest mark of his Lions career, and it ranked 27th in the league.

Last season, he also produced the best turnover-worthy play rate (2.4%) of his career, but even that outlier number was only good enough to tie for 12th.

Goff isn’t one of the most careful quarterbacks in the league with the football, nor does he offset mistakes with a huge volume of big plays like a quarterback like Josh Allen does. This helps explain why the Liuons typically lose whenever Goff doesn’t have a good game.

In 2023, the only game Detroit won despite Goff recording more than one turnover-worthy play came against the Chicago Bears, who, at that time, were 3-7. In contrast, Buffalo won four of the six games in which Allen had multiple turnover-worthy plays, in part because Allen recorded 14 big-time throws across those six games.

Jared Goff's Wins Above Replacement since 2016.

Quarterback is clearly the most important position in football and perhaps in all sports. No other single player can move the needle as much in either direction. Patrick Mahomes makes the Kansas City Chiefs the preseason favorite for every Super Bowl year after year in the same way Tom Brady did for the New England Patriots during a dynasty that spanned multiple decades.

Those players deserve a top-of-the-market contract, whether they are always on one or not.

But most teams don’t have a Mahomes or a Brady, and that’s where things get complicated. If a team doesn’t have a quarterback as good as those players, it needs to offset that disadvantage somehow, whether it’s with a better scheme or better supporting personnel, the second of which is limited by the salary cap.

In an ideal situation for salary cap management, quarterback contracts would be on a sliding scale of quality, giving teams without a Mahomes the chance to build better rosters around their signal-caller to try and claw back the disadvantage he has by not being  Mahomes.

But that’s not how the real world works.

In reality, good or even very good quarterbacks have become some of the best-paid players in history because they are the latest contract to be signed, and teams have to deal with that pressure on the salary cap going forward.

Jared Goff is a very good quarterback, but now the Lions — one of the best-run franchises in recent years — will have to continue to do outstanding work with the difficulty setting set just a little bit higher.

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