5 winners and losers from the Sam Darnold trade

By Vincent Frank

We have yet another blockbuster around the NFL world leading up to the draft. The New York Jets have finally pulled off a Sam Darnold trade.

Reports on Monday indicated that New York has dealt Darnold to the Carolina Panthers for three NFL Draft picks. That includes a sixth-rounder in 2021 as well as second and fourth-round picks in 2022. To say New York received a better-than-expected bounty for the struggling quarterback would be an understatement.

Darnold, 23, has thrown 45 touchdowns against 39 interceptions in 38 career starts since the Jets made him the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. During that span, he’s also posted a 13-25 record as a starter while completing less than 60% of his passes.

New York took advantage of desperation on the part of the Panthers after they missed out on Matthew Stafford and with the Deshaun Watson situation completely up in the air. Owner David Tepper had shown interest in Watson before troubling allegations of sexual assault became public record.

As for the Panthers’ quarterback situation, it remains to be seen what will happen with current starter Teddy Bridgewater after he struggled in his first season with Carolina.

Meanwhile, New York will now use the second pick on a quarterback. Said selection is expected to be BYU product Zach Wilson. Below, we look at the winners and losers from Monday’s blockbuster Sam Darnold trade.

Read More: 2021 NFL mock draft: QBs dominate top-10 picks, surprise trades shake up 2021 NFL Draft

Winner: Jets general manager Joe Douglas

Being able to acquire three draft picks for a struggling quarterback everyone and their mother knew would be traded is a major win for Douglas. He had no built-in relationship with Sam Darnold.

Meanwhile, it’s become darn clear that the Jets are going to draft a quarterback with the second pick in the 2021 NFL Draft later this month. It’s absolutely insane that New York was able to acquire a second-round pick for Sam Darnold. Add in the two mid-to-late round selections and Douglas took Carolina’s brass to the proverbial dry cleaners.

Loser: Teddy Bridgewater’s future up in the air following Sam Darnold trade

Sam Darnold trade: Teddy Bridgewater
Jan 3, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Signed to a three-year, $63 million contract last offseason, Bridgewater was the true definition of a mediocre quarterback in his first season with Carolina. The former Minnesota Vikings first-round pick completed 69.1% of his passes for north of 3,700 yards. However, he also threw just 15 touchdowns against 11 interceptions.

There’s a chance Carolina simply looks to release Bridgewater after June 1. Said move would save $7.9 million against the cap. It would also create an absurd $15 million overall dead cap hit. A trade or restructure could also be in the cards.

Read More: NFL Draft rumors: Latest news and information leading up to the annual event

Winner: Zach Wilson is the future in New Jersey

Sam Darnold trade: Zach Wilson
Oct 31, 2020; Provo, UT, USA; BYU quarterback Zach Wilson (1) throws against Western Kentucky in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, in Provo, Utah. Mandatory Credit: Rick Bowmer/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

That’s it. This former BYU standout is now likely to head to New Jersey and be the Jets’ quarterback of the future. He’ll end up being the face of the franchise after jumping on to the scene for the Cougars last season. He’ll have a widely respected head coach in Robert Saleh as well as an innovative offensive mind, coordinator Mike LaFleur.

Wilson seems to be an ideal fit in LaFleur’s system. It’s going to be run much like what we see from Kyle Shanahan with the San Francisco 49ers. With above-average accuracy and a cannon of an arm, Wilson is set up to succeed out of the gate. New York’s ability to add wide receivers Corey Davis and Keelan Cole to the mix will also help out.

Loser: Panthers show desperation in Sam Darnold trade

New York Jets: Sam Darnold trade
Dec 27, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) talks with teammates during the second half against the Cleveland Browns at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

It’s already known that Carolina offered up the eighth pick to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford before he was dealt to the Los Angeles Rams. It also showed interest in Deshaun Watson before the above-mentioned allegations of sexual assault were thrown in the quarterback’s direction. Simply put, owner David Tepper wants to find that franchise quarterback he had in Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger when he was a part-owner of the Steelers.

From what we’ve seen Darnold do in three NFL seasons, he’s not going to be the answer. A total of 45 touchdowns against 39 interceptions in 38 starts. That’s just not going to cut it. Meanwhile, Carolina gave up three valuable NFL Draft selections and will pick up the 2022 option on Darold’s contract for a whopping $23.6 million. That’s just gross.

Read More: 3 Jimmy Garoppolo trade scenarios to the New England Patriots

Winner: San Francisco 49ers’ trade market for Jimmy Garoppolo

This is a pretty major backdrop. Despite his struggles with injuries over the past few years, there’s no objective person out there who believes Jimmy Garoppolo is a lesser quarterback than Sam Darnold. Heck, this 29-year-old signal caller threw for nearly 4,000 yards with 27 touchdowns against 13 interceptions en route to leading San Francisco to the Super Bowl back in 2019.

Despite what the 49ers want us to believe, Garoppolo is firmly on the trade block after they acquired the No. 3 pick in this month’s draft. San Francisco wants a first-round pick in exchange. Based on what Darnold netted the Jets, that’s now no longer out of the question.