Why Vikings fans can laugh at Jared Goff's massive new contract

Detroit Lions QB Jared Goff
Detroit Lions QB Jared Goff / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

The Minnesota Vikings said goodbye to Kirk Cousins last offseason after he agreed to a massive contract with the Atlanta Falcons. While many debated the path the Vikings chose, the Detroit Lions decided to take a different direction with Jared Goff.

According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the Lions and Goff agreed to a four-year, $212 million contract extension with $170 million guaranteed that will keep him under contract through 2027 with an option for 2028.

For a franchise as tortured as the Lions are, signing Goff is considered a move that fans believe is worth every penny. But for a team like the Vikings, Goff’s new contract is laughable because of the ripple effect it will send across the NFC North.

Detroit Lions and Detroit Lions now following a similar path the Minnesota Vikings took with Kirk Cousins

The Vikings were in the same spot in 2020 as Kirk Cousins finished up the second year of his three-year, $84 million fully guaranteed contract signed before the 2018 season. Heading into the final year of his deal, talk of a succession plan started to surface in Minnesota until Cousins pulled off an upset over the New Orleans Saints in the 2019 Wild Card Playoffs. 

Despite getting hammered by San Francisco in the divisional round the following week, the Vikings gave Cousins a two-year, $66 million contract to maintain continuity at the position. 

The new contract forced the Vikings to move on from established players, limited their options in free agency, and gave them a razor-thin margin for error in the draft, and the Vikings went on to post a 15-18 record over the next two years before firing general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer.

When Kevin O’Connell and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah arrived in Minnesota a few months later, they signed Cousins to a one-year, $35 million extension to maintain stability at the quarterback position. Cousins responded with the best season of his career, going 13-4 on the strength of an NFL-record eight fourth-quarter comebacks before losing in the Wild Card round to the New York Giants.

It would have been easy for the Vikings to bring Cousins back and sign him to a contract that would keep him in Minnesota for the rest of his career. But both sides couldn’t agree to a deal. Cousins responded by putting up monster stats in the first eight games, but the Vikings were a .500 team before he tore his Achilles last October. 

With Brian O’Neill, Justin Jefferson, and others standing up for Cousins, it would have been easy for the Vikings to hand him a blank check. Instead, Cousins got the bag from the Falcons, signing a four-year, $180 million contract with $90 million guaranteed last March.

Some fans wondered what the Vikings were going to do if Cousins were to leave but it turned out to be not so bad. Minnesota used the extra money to sign Jonathan Greenard, Andrew Van Ginkel and Blake Cashman in free agency and used their draft capital to trade up to select J.J. McCarthy with the 10th overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Even if McCarthy doesn’t pan out, the Vikings have $69 million in cap space for 2025 per Over The Cap and can spend in free agency to build an infrastructure ready for a quarterback who can get the job done. 

Looking at Detroit, it could have been easy to move on from Goff. In his first year in Detroit, the Lions went 3-10-1, and Goff completed 67 percent of his passes for 3,245 yards, 19 touchdowns, and eight interceptions, but general manager Brad Holmes went to work to build a better infrastructure around to support Goff.

Holmes found Jahmyr Gibbs, Aidan Hutchinson, Penei Sewell, Jahmyr Gibbs, and Amon-Ra St. Brown in the draft and also put together a strong coaching staff headlined by head coach Dan Campbell and offensive coordinator Ben Johnson.

This put Goff front and center as the Lions won eight of their final 10 games in 2022 and their first division title in 30 years last season. While Detroit went all the way to the NFC Championship, Goff had modest stats, completing 66 percent of his passes for 9,013 yards, 59 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions over the last two seasons.

Lions fans will tell you that it’s worth the price of doing business to keep Goff around. But it was the same mantra that Vikings fans used to defend Cousins as he threw for over 30 or more touchdowns in three seasons and 4,000 yards in four seasons over his six years in Minnesota. Their $185 million investment was rewarded with one playoff win.

The Lions could be here to stay – especially after signing Sewell and St. Brown to extensions this offseason – but their job got harder. What happens when Hutchinson commands a massive payday of his own in two years? Or what if Terrion Arnold’s trash talk isn’t as good as his ability to cover Justin Jefferson?

In the past, the Lions could add reinforcements in free agency, like when they signed David Montgomery to a three-year contract last offseason. But with Goff set to make the second-highest annual average value of any quarterback behind Joe Burrow, that won’t be an option.

The salary cap will rise, and money can be kicked down the road, but that’s like a college student maxing out a credit card and freaking out when the bill comes due. Even the Vikings had to say goodbye to fixtures such as Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, and Eric Kendricks to keep Cousins around, and they could barely get above .500 when they were paired with Cousins.

This doesn’t even account for Johnson’s potential departure, who is only still in Detroit because some teams reportedly balked at his asking price to be a head coach. If someone like Mike McCarthy stumbles in Dallas, Jerry Jones could give Johnson what he wants, leaving Goff without a key piece of his brain trust.

But that’s not a problem for the Vikings, who got out of the high-priced mediocre quarterback business last spring. If anything, the Vikings should thank the Lions, who may have just given Jordan Love a reason to ask for $60 million per year from the Green Bay Packers.

Nobody knows for sure how Goff’s new contract will affect the Lions. But after seeing the numbers, Vikings fans can laugh because they’ve seen this happen before.

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