NY Jets, Sam Darnold Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
The former No. 3 overall pick has endured a difficult first three seasons in the NFL and his time with the organization might be coming to an end in the near future.
Instead, the Jets are highly likely to target a replacement for Darnold in the 2021 NFL Draft. And the player that most expect the team to make a priority is BYU’s Zach Wilson.
While nothing is certain as of yet, Darnold does seem to be on borrowed time in New York. The NFL has shown interest too with upward to eight teams reportedly reaching out to the Jets about a possible Darnold trade.
That number has likely shrunken, however, with multiple prospective trade partners having gone in different directions.
The San Francisco 49ers recently traded up to acquire the third overall pick indicating that they plan to target a QB at that spot. The Indianapolis Colts traded for Carson Wentz earlier in the offseason meaning that they’ve already secured their 2021 starter.
The options are dwindling for the Jets and Darnold. But they’re not out of luck yet.
There are still a few teams that could and should be interested in trading for the former USC star. And whether that trade happens next week or a month from now, it certainly seems like it’s coming.
With that, let’s take a look at three teams that should still be interested in trading for Darnold.
Next: 3. Chicago Bears
3. The NY Jets could trade Sam Darnold to the Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears made some headlines in free agency when they signed longtime Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to a one-year, $10 million deal.
Dalton joins a QB room that already features veteran Nick Foles, but the expectation is that Dalton will be the starter come Week 1. That’s the indication that he was seemingly given and that’s the notion the Bears’ social media team is pushing out.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) March 25, 2021
However, it’s still a little early to jump to conclusions. Would the Bears really go into the 2021 season with Dalton and Foles atop their QB depth chart?
Sure, general manager Ryan Pace doesn’t exactly have the strongest track record with finding quarterbacks. But Pace knows that his job is on the line — it would be foolish for him to bet on a Dalton/Foles duo in what could be his final season in Chicago.
That’s why trading for someone with a bit more upside like Darnold makes sense.
At only 23-years-old and possessing the talent of a former top-three pick, it would be much easier to sell not only the fanbase, but the owner on someone like Darnold.
And given that they’re unlikely to be able to land any of the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft class at pick No. 20, the Bears might not have a better alternative.
If the Bears could land Darnold for a second or even a third-round pick (depending on what his trade market looks like now), it’s hard to argue that he wouldn’t be a more exciting option than Dalton or Foles.
Never underestimate a GM desperate to save his job. Pace is in that position now, and he might see Darnold as his only way to salvage what has been an underwhelming tenure in Chicago.
Next: 2. Denver Broncos
2. The NY Jets could trade Sam Darnold to the Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos have quietly been exploring the quarterback market this offseason after a disappointing season from Drew Lock a year ago.
The former second-round pick led the NFL with 15 interceptions in his first full season as a starter while completing just 57 percent of his passes and throwing for 16 touchdowns in 13 starts.
Along with Darnold, Lock was one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league in 2020, and the Broncos could look to upgrade or provide him with some competition.
That’s where Darnold comes into play.
It’s no secret that Broncos president of football operations John Elway had a major draft crush on Darnold back in 2018 with reports even indicating that Denver planned to trade up to secure their quarterback of the future.
Elway has taken more of a back seat role this offseason, but that doesn’t mean he no longer has any say. Far from it.
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The Broncos also find themselves in a situation where they won’t be able to land any of the top quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft class. Meaning that if they’re looking for a young QB with upside to challenge Lock, their options are slim.
Darnold would probably be their best alternative.
Denver could send a second or third-round pick to the Jets in exchange for a quarterback that the organization has been high on for quite some time. This gives the Broncos further stability at the QB position and the Jets additional draft capital.
The Broncos remain very much in play for a quarterback this offseason. And the Darnold connection makes this seem like a very legitimate possibility.
Next: 1. Carolina Panthers
1. The NY Jets could trade Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers
What’s that we said about desperation a little earlier? If Ryan Pace is desperate, the Carolina Panthers are in a frenzy.
The Panthers have been eyeing a quarterback upgrade all offseason, but to this point, they’ve struck out.
They were reportedly one of two finalists for Matthew Stafford before the Los Angeles Rams swooped in. They’ve been heavily monitoring the Deshaun Watson situation, although recent developments seem to indicate that won’t happen anytime soon.
Many expected the Panthers to then trade up to secure one of the top quarterback prospects, but that no longer seems like a realistic possibility either.
The Jacksonville Jaguars and Jets (in all likelihood) are not trading out. The 49ers just traded up to third overall and will likely select a quarterback. And there’s no chance the Atlanta Falcons allow their division rivals to trade up to No. 4 to take a QB.
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The Panthers find themselves in an awful situation. They were expected to be one of the most aggressive teams this offseason when it came to landing a quarterback. But now, just a month out from the draft, their options seem bleak.
That’s why they’re a prime candidate for Sam Darnold.
Darnold wouldn’t be the high-profile addition that they wanted to make. He doesn’t have the same NFL success as someone like Stafford. He’s not a 25-year-old elite quarterback like Watson. And he lacks the same promise as the top QBs in this year’s class.
But what he does give the organization is hope. His upside would be an easier sell to a fanbase that grew tired of Teddy Bridgewater in 2020.
The Panthers never wanted to be in this situation, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
Sam Darnold might just be their best remaining option.