Assessing Jared Goff, Lions' QB position ahead of free agency, 2023 draft

DETROIT -- Last year was a major bounce-back season for Jared Goff.

In his second year with the Detroit Lions, the No. 1 overall pick in 2016 finished the year as one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league, helping the Lions to a 9-8 record and their first winning season since 2017.

Additionally, he was named to the Pro Bowl for the third time in his career, replacing Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts who'd led Philly to the Super Bowl. Once considered a bridge quarterback for the Lions after coming to Detoit in a 2021 trade that sent Matthew Stafford to Los Angeles Rams, he appears to have established himself as the clear-cut starter going forward.

“I never really deemed him as a bridge [quarterback], I think everybody else did,” Lions general manager Brad Holmes said of Goff during his end-of-the-season press conference.

But questions remain at the quarterback position: Will Goff undoubtedly be the man at QB? What will the Lions do at backup this offseason? Will they draft a QB? Or potentially sign a veteran free agent?

Here’s a closer look at the quarterback position in Detroit heading into free agency and the upcoming draft.

How did the QBs perform in 2022?

Goff spearheaded a top-five offense in Detroit, starting in all 17 games. In December, the 28-year-old said he was playing the best football of his career, even better than his 2018 Super Bowl season with the Rams in which he threw for 4,688 yards, 32 touchdowns and made the Pro Bowl.

In 2022, Goff threw for 4,438 yards, 29 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He set a franchise record for the most consecutive passes without an interception (324) while posting the NFL’s fifth-best total QBR (61.1).

“I have always known my capabilities and what I can contribute to a team, but I think this year more than ever I had to focus so much on myself and not in a selfish way,” Goff said after the win over the Green Bay Packers in January. “I had to make sure I was doing my job and not trying to carry a load that is impossible to carry at certain times. That was a challenge, but it served me well, and I have learned from it and gotten so much better as a player and a person. Being able to learn from that has been extremely beneficial for me.”

With Goff poised to return in 2023, the issue, then, is with the backups. Outside of Goff, punter Jack Fox was the only other player on the roster to complete a pass. Backup quarterback Nate Sudfield did appear in two games but didn’t register any stats. So, Detroit’s overall depth at quarterback wasn’t particularly strong, but it also didn’t need to be with Goff staying healthy and playing so well.

Who's coming back?

Goff is under contract through 2024, but Sudfeld is an unrestricted free agent. So, the Lions have to address this position this offseason.

The Lions cut both Tim Boyle and David Blough after disappointing preseason camps before last season and ultimately signed Sudfield, a former San Francisco 49ers backup. But Holmes has made it a priority to do a better job at filling out the room this offseason.

“I feel like last year we kind of left training camp kind of sliding into home plate trying to fill that backup quarterback role. And that's on me,” Holmes said during the NFL combine. “I gotta do a better job of making sure that we're not in that position again. So that is something that we're gonna need to address whether it's here in free agency or upcoming in the draft. But that's something that we've had a lot of conversations about. I gotta do a better job of making sure we get that rectified."

What will the Lions do this offseason?

Goff has two years and $52 million left on his current deal, but Detroit has two of the top 18 picks in the upcoming draft and hasn't ruled out taking a quarterback, although the organization has consistently backed Goff as the starter next season.

“We're going to get the best football players that fit us,” Holmes said during the NFL combine, when asked if the Lions were considering drafting a quarterback in the first round. “I don't know exactly what you want me to say.”

There's also the case for former NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, who was given a nonexclusive franchise tag by the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday. The Lions have the draft picks to acquire him should they strike a deal, but the organization has given no indication they are interested. More likely, the Lions will use their first-round picks this year on strengthening the defense and then go for a quarterback on Day 2 to play behind Goff. Teddy Bridgewater and John Wolford are other potential veteran options available in free agency as well.

"I think it's a lot easier to get worse at quarterback than to get better in this league," Holmes said during his end-of-season news conference. "So, I think what Jared has done this year, he captained the ship of a top-3 offense, and he was top-10 statistically in most of the passing categories.

"And again, you know how we approach the draft," he added. "We're never going to turn down a good football player, so if it's a football player we love, we're going to make sure every stone is turned. But I do think that Jared has proven to everybody that he is the starting quarterback for us.”