New York Jets extremely likely to trade Sam Darnold by 2021 NFL Draft

By Matt Johnson

The New York Jets are closing in on a pivotal point in their franchise, deciding between a commitment to Sam Darnold or moving the former No. 3 overall pick and taking a new quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft.

When the offseason began, moving on from Darnold seemed like a foregone conclusion. But after the Jets hired head coach Robert Saleh, there was a new sense that the 23-year-old quarterback could remain in New York. Amid a busy offseason, with plenty of big moves, Darnold’s future remained under the spotlight.

Before long, rumors spread about the quarterback’s hopes for staying in New York. The Jets seem to be split on Darnold, with some powerful voices in the organization wanting him gone and others believing his talent can be salvaged. Ultimately, the final decision will be made by general manager Joe Douglas.

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Douglas has been receptive to trade offers for Darnold. The willingness to engage in discussions has led to a number of teams expressing interest in a blockbuster deal. While the 2021 NFL Draft is still a month away, it seems we might now have an idea about what decision will be made.

According to Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline, people around the NFL believe there is a 90% chance we see Darnold trade before the draft. If New York waits until after it makes the No. 2 pick, which is expected to be used on a quarterback, the front office will lose some leverage.

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What will the New York Jets receive in a Sam Darnold trade?

After spending a top-three pick on Darnold in 2018, the Jets won’t get anything close to that kind of return three years later. Instead, the organization will have to accept that it whiffed on its selection and accept the best offer from a group of teams who are trying to buy low.

The Jets are hoping negotiations start with a second-round pick coming their way, at a minimum. Darnold is under contract for the 2021 season and carries a team option for 2022. However, there a few key factors that might make a rival general manager unwilling to trade a top-50 pick in a quality draft class.

  • Sam Darnold stats (2018): 57.7% completion rate, 17/15 TD/INT ratio, 6.9 ypa, 77.6 passer rating, 220.4 ypg
  • Sam Darnold stats (2019): 61.9% completion rate, 19/13 TD/INT ratio, 6.9 ypa, 84.3 passer rating, 232.6 ypg
  • Sam Darnold stats (2020): 59.6% completion rate, 9/11 TD/INT ratio, 6.1 ypa, 72.7 passer rating, 184 ypg

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It’s an ugly set of numbers across three seasons, 48 combined starts with a 13-25 record. Darnold had one of the worst supporting casts in the NFL and inadequate coaching did him no favors. But evaluators won’t love the results thus far in his NFL career and the contract further complicates matters.

  • Sam Darnold contract: $0.794 million cap hit in 2021 season, projected $18.5858 million option for 2022.

Investing nearly $20 million in a quarterback with those statistics isn’t a wise move. A new environment could turn things around for Darnold, but there is a massive amount of risk. These are the factors working against New York as other clubs make offers.

Ultimately, the Jets might need to settle for just a second-round pick in return. Many teams have already found alternatives in free agency, while others could land their future signal-caller. Ultimately, even if the return isn’t ideal, the best thing for everyone is a trade for Darnold and a new quarterback for the Jets.