The former Jets quarterback has struggled since he was traded to the Carolina Panthers prior to the 2021 season, and it seems more and more likely that Carolina plans to move on from Darnold for 2022.
Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer wrote about the Panthers' current predicament surrounding the quarterback position and why Darnold may be more difficult to trade than expected.
"One player I talked to a few people about was Panthers QB Sam Darnold. His value has cratered, and it sure seems like Carolina might need to eat some of his money to deal him."- Albert Breer
Last offseason, the Jets traded Darnold to the Panthers in exchange for a 2021 sixth-round pick and a 2022 second-rounder and fourth-rounder. After the trade, Carolina made the grave mistake of picking up Darnold's fifth-year option which guarantees him around $19 million in 2022.
Whereas the Jets have since left Darnold in the dust, placing their trust in Zach Wilson this upcoming season, the Panthers are stuck with a subpar quarterback and subpar options.
They can play Darnold in 2022 and probably see a repeat of last season, or they can trade him, but they will likely need to absorb a chunk of his salary.
The NY Jets made the right decision in moving on from Sam Darnold
The 2018 No. 3 pick has worked with four offensive coordinators in four years and so far has failed to prove his reliability under center.
In 2021, Darnold enjoyed a strong start to the season before falling off a cliff as well as suffering a shoulder injury. He finished with nine touchdowns against 13 interceptions in 12 games, and his 33.2 quarterback rating was third-worst in the league among qualified quarterbacks.
Throughout the 2021 season, the Panthers were forced to use an unpalatable combination of Darnold, Cam Newton, and P.J. Walker under center — they'll want to avoid that kind of instability in 2022, but Darnold doesn't give them much of a choice.
Of all their quarterback options, Darnold hogs the most cap space and hinders the team from pursuing potential quarterback upgrades in free agency.
If the Panthers find no willing suitors for Darnold, they may end up selecting a quarterback in this year's draft and pitting him against Darnold throughout the 2022 season.
Either way, uncertainty clouds Carolina a year after the Darnold trade, as the Panthers took a gamble that hasn't yet paid off and may never will.
The Jets were wise to leave Darnold and that vicious cycle of fruitless rookie quarterbacks behind (for now). The Panthers — and Darnold — still have some learning to do.