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The plethora of moves we’ve seen other NFL teams make at quarterback has apparently impacted the New York Jets as they figure out what to do with Sam Darnold.
Once the Chicago Bears, Washington Football Team, Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots seemingly settled their short-term situations at quarterback, the Jets had to know Darnold’s trade value would plummet. Now that the San Francisco 49ers moved up to the third selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, that’s magnified even further.
“Talked to three NFL GMs about the market for Sam Darnold. I asked what’s the most they’d be willing to give up: Two said a 3rd Rd pick — with one saying even a late 3rd would be ‘a little rich.’ The other GM said ‘maybe’ a 3rd or conditional 4th,” ESPN’s Kimberley A. Martin noted on Twitter recently.
There’s a ton of complexities when it comes to a trade. First off, Darnold has a team option for the 2022 season that will likely come in at roughly $25 million. Not a single team is picking up said option given how poorly the former No. 3 overall pick played in his first three seasons. In fact, Sam Darnold’s stats are just not indicative of a starting quarterback in today’s NFL.
- 2018: 57.7% completion, 2,865 yards, 17 touchdowns, 15 interceptions (77.6 rating)
- 2019: 61.9% completion, 3,024 yards, 19 touchdowns, 13 interceptions (84.3 rating)
- 2020: 59.6% completion, 2,208 yards, nine touchdowns, 11 interceptions (72.7 rating)
Secondly, the market has dried up big time recently. San Francisco had initial interest in Darnold before moving up from the 12th pick to the No. 3 overall selection. The 49ers’ brass made it clear during a post-trade press conference that they will take a quarterback with that selection.
It’s also important to note that this is seen as one of the better quarterback classes in recent NFL Draft history. Even if three quarterbacks go with the top-three selections, as expected, teams picking lower in the first-round could get a potential franchise guy. That list includes Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Mac Jones, minus the player San Francisco takes at three.
New York Jets attempting to bluff their way into a Sam Darnold trade
We already know with a 90% certainty that the Jets are going to move off Darnold in favor of likely No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson from BYU. Despite this, general manager Joe Douglas and Co. are pushing the narrative that they could keep both Darnold and Wilson on the roster.
“One thing that’s gone underplayed with Sam Darnold. I’m told keeping Darnold AND drafting a QB at 2 is not totally off the table. Jets have truly gone into this offseason with every option in consideration, and there’s still legit sentiment for Darnold’s skill set in the building,” ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported on Monday.
Well, isn’t that cute? Everyone around the NFL knows the Jets have Darnold on the trade block. It’s also the worst-kept secret in the league that they absolutely love Zach Wilson. It’s one of the reasons San Francisco didn’t even engage with the Jets about the second selection before moving up to No. 3.
There’s no way New York is going to put together an awkward quarterback room under first-year head coach Robert Saleh when they brought him in to change the culture within the organization.
Who might still be in on Sam Darnold?
As noted above, the market is dwindling. With that said, there’s some options for the Jets if they are willing to take a mid-round pick in return for the struggling former USC standout.
- Washington Football Team: The addition of Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t change a whole lot from Washington’s perspective. He’s a stopgap, at best. Meanwhile, Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen have not proven themselves to be starter-caliber. If Washington can nab Sam Darnold on the cheap, it might make sense to create competition during training camp.
- Denver Broncos: This one has been talked about a bit. The idea would be for new Broncos general manager George Paton to create competition for Drew Lock in the quarterback room. Remember, Lock tied for the league lead in interceptions with 15 a season ago. Denver was in on Deshaun Watson before those troubling assault allegations surfaced. They are still looking to add a quarterback to the mix.
- Las Vegas Raiders: This one might come out of left field. But it makes a lot of sense in the grand scheme of things. Marcus Mariota is only returning to the Raiders because he took a major pay cut. The quarterback could still be traded. If so, Jon Gruden and Co. might look to bring in someone with upside like Sam Darnold. In turn, Mariota is moved to the Jets as a veteran backup or bridge quarterback to Zach Wilson.
Noticing an issue here for the Jets? The market is slim for Darnold’s services. Right now, a mid-round pick has to be seen as an ideal scenario. No amount of bluffing or leaks to the media is going to change that between now and the 2021 NFL Draft in late April.