The blockbuster trade shipping Matthew Stafford to Los Angeles in exchange for Jared Goff and three draft picks that shook up the NFL world over the weekend can't be consummated until the new league year opens on March 17.
Making media rounds Sunday, the trade's logistics left new Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell to speak in vague generalities about the agreed-upon swap.
"I know if something went down, we'd be very excited about it," Campbell told Kyle Meinke of MLive. "That's what I would say. But hey man, I think everything we're doing at this point, I think we're going in the right direction, and it's exactly where we need to go."
In the trade, Detroit acquires Goff, a 2021 third-round pick, and first-round picks in 2022 and 2023, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Saturday night.
Taking on the $43 million in guarantees on Goff's contract netted the Lions more draft capital than others might have offered.
With a robust market for Stafford, who turns 33 in less than a week, Detroit could have had its pick of the type of package it was looking for in return. Rapoport noted that the Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers all made offers. The Broncos and Panthers have top-10 picks this year that could have been in play. Instead, the Lions chose to push their haul down the road a bit.
All signs since the calendar flipped to 2021 indicate the Lions are content with building slowly for the future. Hiring an inexperienced GM known for his draft acumen in Brad Holmes, giving Campbell a six-year contract, and now trading Stafford for future first-round picks underscore the Lions' long-game.
Campbell highlighted that point in his discussion with Meinke.
"My view of this, and (Holmes') too, honestly, is where are we two years from now? Not this year. What do we look like in two years? That's the way I really view this," Campbell said. "So any piece that we (add), any free agent that's added, any draft pick that's added, like, those players have to be our core foundation two years from now. Because if we make knee-jerk reactions right now and it's all about, 'how do we get there as fast as we can right now,' and we do all these things that are all about now, right now, right now, right now -- well, that's great. Maybe we get a winner next year. But now all of the sudden we're going to be one of those teams that is up and down.
"The best way to build a consistent winner is, man, you get draft capital and you draft players and those players are your core. And when those players get good, in four years, we sign those guys back. And then they are your core, because they're your own."
The Rams not having a first-round pick this year forced the Lions to take future compensation. It didn't hurt that Detroit seems intent on stripping the current roster to the bits to build for the future. The next move for the Lions will be a decision on Kenny Golladay's future. If Detroit doesn't franchise tag the young wideout and lets him walk in free agency, it will be another sign that it is preparing to struggle in 2021.
What appears to be a patient game plan from the Lions stands in stark contrast to the win-or-else mandate from ownership to the previous brass. Clearly, that hot blaze didn't work. Perhaps a slow burn will be more effective in the long-run.
Attaining future first-round picks comes with risk for Detroit. From the obvious, they'll likely be late first-rounders with Holmes needing to hit on good players when the choices are cashed in. The Lions have been rebuilding for a generation. The latest comes with a full-scale stripdown, selling worthwhile parts of Ford's most expensive vehicle for future compensation.