The Jets are coming off one of their worst statistical seasons in recent memory. Finishing 2-14, and at the bottom of their respective division, the team is on the verge of looking for a new signal-caller under center.
Darnold has been the Jets’ quarterback for the past three playing seasons. Since 2018, he’s led the team to a total of 13 wins while starting.
A knock on Darnold has been his ability to stay healthy for a full 16-game slate. It’s one of many reasons why he’s currently a major question mark moving forward.
Of course, his lackluster play — particularly in a downright awful 2020 season — is also a significant cause for concern.
Approximately four teams have inquired with the Jets regarding Darnold’s status, per Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. The spike in interest isn’t much of a surprise, though.
The 23-year-old signal-caller is still younger than Cincinnati Bengals’ quarterback Joe Burrow, and Baltimore Ravens’ QB Lamar Jackson. Many still believe Darnold has room for growth, though he may have superseded that with the team he’s currently employed by.
If the Jets were to keep Darnold around, they would have a decision to make regarding his fifth-year option, a decision that won’t likely have to be made come draft night.
We take a look at three more teams that could possibly land Darnold in a trade this offseason.
Next: 3. A one-way ticket to New Orleans
3. The NY Jets could trade Sam Darnold to the New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints would be an outstanding landing spot for Sam Darnold. Darnold would instantly become the starter, and he would also get a few valuable lessons from current-Saints head coach Sean Payton.
With Drew Brees expected to announce his retirement this offseason, the Jets should be expecting a call from the Saints’ brass when all is set-in-stone.
Jameis Winston is a free agent and there’s no guarantee that the Saints look to bring him back. And while Taysom Hill is still under contract, it wouldn’t be wise to go into the season with him as their starter.
For that reason, someone like Darnold makes a ton of sense for New Orleans.
When it comes to compensation, the Saints currently have possession of the 28th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. This would likely suffice the Jets’ needs when talking a potential trade for a once-coveted young quarterback.
There are a few unknowns, though. Is Sean Payton completely enamored with the idea of coaching Darnold, and does he think he can excite a Saints fanbase that is as passionate as they come?
These are questions to keep in mind when evaluating a quarterback that was once a top-five draft selection.
Nonetheless, this is certainly a team to keep an eye on.
Next: 2. Heading down to the Carolinas
NY Jets, Sam Darnold Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
2. The NY Jets could trade Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers.
The Carolina Panthers are an interesting destination, in that, they have a sufficient quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, who has the ability to get the job done if need be.
Carolina signed Bridgewater to a three-year, $63 million deal back in March of 2020, seemingly committing to him as the starter until 2023. Are the Panthers all that invested in the quarterback market, to begin with?
Carolina was reportedly highly interested in former Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford — so interested that they offered Detroit the eighth overall selection in the 2021 draft.
Will the NY Jets be able to jolt that same selection out of Carolina’s grip in exchange for Darnold? Not likely.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter expects the Jets could receive a first-round pick in return for Darnold, though, a late first-round selection is likely.
A possible trade scenario involving Darnold and the No. 8 overall pick could see the Panthers sending their first-round pick to the Jets in exchange for Darnold and the Jets’ No. 23 overall selection.
Might that be too much for Carolina to give up? Perhaps, but they are expected to be aggressive.
The Panthers are willing to move on from Bridgewater and Darnold could be just the guy to succeed him in Carolina.
Next: 1. Bound for Washington
NY Jets, Sam Darnold Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
1. The NY Jets could trade Sam Darnold to the Washington Football Team
Washington is the No. 1 ranked destination on the list, not solely based upon fit, but the most likely landing spot for Darnold at this very moment.
Washington needs a quarterback, plain and simple. The Football Team currently holds possession of the No. 19 overall selection in this year’s NFL Draft.
This spot on the board isn’t exactly convenient for a team that is on the prowl for a competent, new, young signal-caller. Meaning, there isn’t a guarantee at No. 19, nor is there at any pick in the draft, for that matter.
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For that reason, the Jets would be wise to trade Sam Darnold to Washington for the 19th overall selection. Of course, this is assuming Washington would be willing to surrender their top draft selection.
Washington keeps hold of their later-round picks, and also takes the initiative on developing a 23-year-old quarterback who would start almost immediately, and whom some still believe has not reached his full potential.
For the Jets, they would hold the most leverage over the first round of the draft. No. 2, No. 19, and No. 23 overall would all belong to Gang Green.
If there is any blueprint for a way to rebuild a franchise, having three first-round picks in any given draft is the way to do so.