Jared Goff’s Extension Shows the Lions Finally Know What They’re Doing

Detroit has locked up three of its core players to nine-figure extensions this offseason, following a simple law of human dynamics that few teams actually practice.
The Lions reportedly agreed to pay Goff at least $170 million over the next four years.
The Lions reportedly agreed to pay Goff at least $170 million over the next four years. / Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

There are teams that, when on the verge of Super Bowl contention, behave like the core of their roster is precious and familial and integral to the continued success of the operation. And then there are teams that get into the same position and begin to squeeze the help like a pack of headhunters from McKinsey. 

I care little for your takes on Jared Goff’s extension, which he signed Monday and makes him the second-highest paid quarterback in the sport. There will be people who say it was worth it and people who say it wasn’t. There will be people who say Sean McVay was still right and people who say he was wrong for trading Goff in the first place. There will be people who say that this puts some sort of pressure on Goff’s shoulders to get the Detroit Lions “over the hump” even though the Super Bowl is much more about team health and fortuitous bounces of the ball rather than some mystical “hump.”

The contract is a win for the Lions because they understand the law of good vibes. You pay your best players and you pay them without making them hang by a thread for months or years. You pay them before it gets aggravating or suspicious. You treat them like people who have done something for you. In turn, they tend to perform better. It’s a very simple law of human dynamics that, for some reason, few teams tend to practice with regularity. 

This is what the Eagles did following their first Super Bowl win as a franchise. They rewarded cornerstone players with big deals and laid the foundation not only for the immediate future, but for a second iteration of the team that reached the Super Bowl a few years later under a different head coach. Say what you will about the Lions, but spending sprees like this are about more than just good business sense (and, indeed, signing both Penei Sewell and Amon-Ra St. Brown to contracts before the market was rocked by some generational talent is smart). It’s about a chain reaction of mutual respect and belief that travels to the very top, where someone has to write a check (and, believe me, there are owners out there who claim to be all about winning but won’t open their checkbooks for a sturdy backup QB). 

Goff’s contract is a win because the Lions don’t seem preoccupied with looking like the smartest people in the room. They seem concerned with making sure everyone in the room wants to remain there. 

This offseason, offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, who could have had any number of head coaching jobs over the past two years and was so coveted by one franchise that the pursuit became something of an industry joke, came back for yet another season. Part of that reason, he has told folks privately, is how much he felt he could still learn from head coach Dan Campbell, and how much he desired to win a championship with this organization. 

Then within a few hours of one another on April 24, the team inked both Sewell and St. Brown to nine-figure extensions, taking them off the market without either player having to sniff the final year of their rookie deals and start to fret about the rigors of free agency. 

Lions lineman Penei Sewell
Sewell is now the NFL’s highest-paid lineman after signing a four-year, $112 million deal last month. / Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

We’re not privy to the same internal analysis of Goff that the Lions have, and everyone is welcome to debate the long-term merits of this deal and pick it apart on its yearly allocation of funds and how much money it’s actually worth, but I would argue that most of that doesn’t matter. 

It means something to pay Goff commensurate with the top quarterbacks in the NFL at the same time the team paid both Sewell and St. Brown early. It is the best kind of strategic performance because it creates the belief that everyone else will get theirs, and not simply be discarded once the bus reaches its intended destination. Paying Goff outweighs the scenarios he may have run into elsewhere. Lowballing him removes the faith. Pushing him to the brink of free agency creates a sense of self-preservation. If the Goff deal fails, the worst scenario is a tranche of dead money that, let’s face it, means little when the Broncos are absorbing $90 million worth for discaring their former QB. If the sunk cost was money thrown at buoying someone’s belief in themselves and their status as the leader of a competitive franchise, it’s money well spent. 

It’s cliché to say the Lions are “all in” but not if you explain it properly. They are “all in” in the way good teams are “all in.” They’re paying their best players and not worrying about employing all of the too-smart tricks that get general managers back slaps at the next budget meeting. They are actually behaving in a manner that leads us to believe they want to win a Super Bowl. It sounds simple, but you’d be stunned how few teams can actually say that.  

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Conor Orr


Conor Orr is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, where he covers the NFL. He is also the co-host of the MMQB Podcast. Conor has been covering the NFL for more than a decade. His award-winning work has also appeared in The Newark Star-Ledger, NFL.com and NFL Network. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children and a loving terrier named Ernie.