General manager Brad Holmes has placed his stamp on the Detroit Lions organization thus far in his first season turning the key for the franchise. He’s established a mantra in gritty head coach Dan Campbell, acquired cheap, talented spot starters during the open signing period, all while shuttering out the noise surrounding his shipment of former franchise cornerstone Matthew Stafford to Los Angeles.
In just the last few weeks, a once opaque window into the future under center for the Lions was wiped clean following Jared Goff’s introduction as Detroit’s cornerstone signal-caller. Holmes offered a notion of confidence toward the 2016 No. 1 overall selection saying he “doesn’t see anything other” than Goff starting Week 1, but for Detroit’s sake, take it with a grain of salt.
In today’s NFL, window dressing and embellishment of assets have become an ever-present narrative during the active offseason months. What Holmes and Campbell inherently relayed to the other 31 organizations was Detroit “has their guy,” and for now, nothing can change that.
The question is, however, do they indeed have their guy, or is a de facto smokescreen now in place for Detroit as they await a chance to see how the front end of the draft unravels while sitting at No. 7 overall?
If you wanted to play devil’s advocate and ignore Holmes, you could turn to Goff’s lack of development and consistency from the onset of his career relative to his selection as the first player off the board in the 2016 draft. On the flip side, one could also argue that Goff is 42-27 as a starter (42-20 under head coach Sean McVay) and would be looked at differently if he wasn’t a former No. 1 overall pick with a fat contract.
Drafting a quarterback at No. 7 overall creates issues in and of itself, with two presumed starting talents on the same roster with only one man to fill the role. Money would also become an issue, where a dead cap hit of $30.5M would be tied to Goff’s release if he were to be cut following the 2021 campaign. That seems irresponsible and unaware from both a financial and football standpoint, but one constant has remained surrounding the most paramount position in sports.
“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,” - Vince Lombardi.
Under an “iron sharpens iron” bubble in today’s NFL, it really couldn’t be more of a prevalent headline surrounding the Lions’ current ongoing rebuild. Am I saying Goff shouldn’t start? No, but with a generational quarterback pool looming, it would be shameful for Holmes and Campbell to not entertain the idea at such a high-value spot within the draft’s first 10 selections.
With Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson likely off the board to begin the draft, the mystery starts at third overall. From there, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, or Alabama’s Mac Jones are all available. One of them presumably will become the next man under center in San Francisco, but do either of them fit in Detroit? And would the Lions have to move up to grab their pick of the litter with Atlanta at No. 4? These are questions Holmes must answer internally prior to April 29, but it opens Pandora’s box into a potential scenario that Goff enters his first training camp donning Honolulu blue in a competition for the Week 1 starting nod.
Within the aforementioned trade of Stafford, there was a fresh variety of future draft capital for Holmes. An additional third-round selection this year and first-round choices in 2022-23 present unrivaled flexibility for the first-year general manager on the cusp of his first draft. Trading up or trading back both are options, where Holmes could eye a best player available approach for a roster with inescapable needs on both sides of the ball.
A restructured contract and a pat on the back as the presumed starter won’t turn any heads within an ever-competitive quarterback market; especially in April, especially in Detroit. On the heels of his worst season as a pro, a scenario has now presented itself for the Lions to “win the draft.” I’m not talking about trading up for a Kyle Pitts or Penei Sewell, who both could be available at No. 7, with both talents presenting generational talent at their respective positions, but rather undertaking a quarterback battle in Detroit that could expedite the rebuilding process for the Lions, who have failed to win a playoff game since 1991.
All in all, Goff’s path as the future under center for Detroit isn’t as clear as many believe, with Holmes holding all the cards for a potential draft-altering move in the coming weeks.
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