NY Jets, Sam Darnold
The NY Jets’ remaining games of 2020 are an audition for quarterback Sam Darnold.
Now, three years into his career, it looks as though the Southern California product will be on his way out of the Big Apple. The Jets are likely drafting his replacement in April.
Darnold did not develop the way that the Jets wanted him to, and the inconsistency he showed as a rookie has only been amplified. That being said, Adam Gase has accepted the blame for stunting Darnold’s growth.
Sam Darnold is still young, and he has shown the ability to succeed if given the right circumstances. Vintage Darnold was on display this past Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders, scoring three touchdowns, but also turning the ball over three times.
There are several teams that could use a quarterback like Darnold, who has tremendous upside, but never reached his full potential. There will always be a market for serviceable quarterbacks, especially if they could become a franchise cornerstone.
Here’s a look at some potential trade candidates for the Jets to make in order to make room for the future signal-caller for New York.
Next: 5. Succeeding a longtime rival
NY Jets, Sam Darnold Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
5. The NY Jets could trade Sam Darnold to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
For the moment, it seems as though Bruce Arians and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are set at the quarterback position. The Jets could benefit from a team with a short term answer on offense.
They recently moved on from another inconsistent, turnover-prone quarterback in Jameis Winston, but Darnold could provide them with an ideal situation.
Tom Brady has another year on his contract, where Darnold could serve as the backup and learn from one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.
Pairing Darnold with elite receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin (assuming he doesn’t leave, allowing the Jets to possibly sign him in free agency), as well as an offensive mind like Arians, could allow him to reach his ceiling.
Due to the lack of a long-term plan, the Jets could perhaps weasel their way into a higher draft pick in exchange for the young signal-caller. The Buccaneers have a mostly well-rounded roster and are clearly in a win-now mentality.
Trading a second or third-rounder to extend their Super Bowl window might be a small price to pay.
Next: 4. A defensive change of scenery
NY Jets, Sam Darnold Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
4. The NY Jets could trade Sam Darnold to the Chicago Bears
Bring up the fact that the Chicago Bears missed out on Patrick Mahomes to draft Mitchell Trubisky, and you will likely see any fan or staff member wince.
The Trubisky trade will likely haunt Chicago for years to come, especially since they would have had the chance at Deshaun Watson as well.
While the Jets are in a similar spot, Darnold likely provides a brighter upside than their current quarterback room of Trubisky and Nick Foles.
Matt Nagy must feel his seat getting hotter and hotter as the weeks pass. Making a move for Darnold could buy him time.
The Bears aren’t exactly a perfect team, but they boast one of the best defenses in the NFL. In such a roster, they would just need Darnold to be serviceable in order to succeed.
Limiting the mistakes is his biggest hurdle, but a trade could be what gets the team over the playoff hump. Trading an early-round pick to the Jets would allow the Bears to use their first-round pick on more pressing needs, like an offensive lineman or a wide receiver.
Darnold would not need to play hero ball in Chicago, so long as he isn’t the reason they lose.
Next: 3. A piece on a Super Bowl roster
NY Jets, Sam Darnold Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
3. The NY Jets could trade Sam Darnold to the San Francisco 49ers
The Jets trading their current quarterback back to California would send Darnold from a team looking for talent, to a team built for success.
In 2017, the New England Patriots shocked the league by trading Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco for a second-round pick. New England turned that trade into a plethora of draft capital, resulting in a number of players being added to the roster.
The most notable names include Damien Harris and Jarrett Stidham.
Just a few months now removed from a Super Bowl appearance, San Francisco has been plagued by injuries. Even so, the team has remained competitive for the most part.
Jimmy Garoppolo has been inconsistent in the games that he has been available, along with a generally unfavorable contract that is unproportionate to the money he’s earning.
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With a roster that has limited holes and is only struggling because of a plague of injuries, this could be the perfect chance for San Francisco to make a move for their future.
The Jets could get a decent pick, while the 49ers get a younger, cheaper option at quarterback.
Next: 2. Replacing a future Hall of Famer
NY Jets, Sam Darnold Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
2. The NY Jets could trade Sam Darnold to the Pittsburgh Steelers
While the loss to the Washington Football Team was a massive upset, the Pittsburgh Steelers are still sitting pretty at 11-1 with a young team. However, there’s one person on the roster that isn’t as young as management might like.
Ben Roethlisberger has been rumored to retire for the last few years now. The Steelers managed to scrape by at 8-8 last year with Mason Rudolph and Delvin Hodges at the helm.
While Big Ben has been the answer at quarterback closing in on two decades, it may be the perfect opportunity to invest in the future.
Should the Jets send Sam Darnold to Pittsburgh in exchange for players or picks, he could become an instant starter on a well-rounded team. With only four players over the age of 30, Darnold would be another injection of youth onto a playoff-bound team.
Assuming that JuJu Smith-Schuster decides to re-sign with Pittsburgh, Darnold would be reunited with his go-to target from his days at USC.
If Roethlisberger decides to retire, Sam Darnold would be ready to fit into a system with an amazing offensive line and wide receivers. If Big Ben decides to play another season, Darnold can spend time learning the offense.
Either way, it would likely be an ideal location for the former No. 3 overall pick.
Next: 1. Coming full circle
NY Jets, Sam Darnold
1. The NY Jets could trade Sam Darnold to the Indianapolis Colts
How quickly things change.
The franchise that traded the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to the Jets so that they could select Sam Darnold could now use his talents behind their revamped offensive line.
With the picks sent to Indianapolis, the Colts added Quenton Nelson, Braden Smith, and Rock Ya-Sin. At the time, it seemed like a win-win situation for both teams. However, entering the 2021 calendar year, both teams could benefit from another deal involving the USC product.
Nobody could have predicted Andrew Luck’s retirement prior to the start of the 2019 season, leading to the Colts trading for Jacoby Brissett from the New England Patriots. This one might be a bit more unlikely.
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Philip Rivers is still on a one-year contract, and Brissett has been developing on the sidelines. A trade for Darnold would likely mean that Brissett is not progressing the way they want.
The Colts are built to win. A stellar offensive line, one of the best defenses in sports, and a fantastic offensive-minded coach in Frank Reich. Darnold would be given one of the best situations to reach his full potential.
While a trade destination is not yet certain, the Jets have dragged their feet to an 0-12 record. The team has not been unwatchable the last few weeks, but it isn’t a question that the quarterback position has been incredibly inconsistent.
It may be all but guaranteed that Joe Douglas is pressing Trevor Lawrence’s name on to a jersey as we speak.