The Sam Darnold era is over. Three frustrating years ended with a whimper and the second overall pick.
Sam Darnold is on the move down the East Coast to Carolina in exchange for a sixth round pick this year and the Panthers’ second and fourth round picks next year.
The trade seems to make sense for everyone. Sam Darnold gets a fresh start. The Panthers get a potential franchise QB. And the Jets have yet more draft picks to build a strong team, presumably around Zach Wilson.
We all knew the Jets were going to make a trade this summer – either cashing in the second overall pick to build a team around Darnold, or to trade Darnold himself. Ultimately Joe Douglas chose the latter. That choice makes sense. If the Jets have similar grades on Darnold and Wilson, they may as well restart the clock on a rookie QB contract and build around Zach Wilson. Taking the fifth year option into account, the Jets will save $10M a year starting Wilson over Darnold.
There’s always the risk that Sam Darnold turns his career around in Carolina, particularly under the coaching of Matt Rhule and Joe Brady, and the front office takes the flak for trading him away. That said, they could just as easily become the team that passed on Zach Wilson. Ultimately, the potential of Wilson is higher than the (current) known quantity of Darnold.
While trading Darnold away makes sense, did the Jets handle it in the best way? Compare the haul for Darnold with what the Dolphins got for the third overall pick.
Jets traded Darnold for:
- 6th round pick (226) in 2021
- 2nd round pick in 2022
- 4th round pick in 2022
Dolphins traded the third overall pick for:
1st round pick (12th overall) pick in 2021
1st round in 2022
3rd round in 2022
1st round pick in 2023
As much as anything, it shows the value of a top five pick compared to a proven, solid NFL starter, even at QB.
The Jets did take calls to trade Darnold prior to free agency, though we don’t know what was offered. While the Goff/Stafford trade is hard to compare, it’s worth noting the Eagles got a third round pick and a conditional first/second round pick for Carson Wentz from the Colts. Compared to that, Darnold is on a far cheaper contract, albeit for two fewer years including the fifth year option.
However the Jets barely received any calls for the second overall pick, as other teams assumed they were locked in on Zach Wilson. Perhaps that belief limited the value of Darnold, knowing that he was an auxiliary part. Of course the Jets couldn’t trade Darnold until they were sure one of the QB’s in this draft class is a better long term option than Sam Darnold, potentially delaying his trade.
So Sam Darnold gets a much-needed fresh start within an exciting offensive coaching setup. The Panthers have a potential franchise QB on a rookie contract for pennies on the dollar. Meanwhile the Jets avoided a potential QB headache. Ultimately though, a future second, future fourth and the 226th pick later this month seems scant compensation for the player Sam Darnold was billed as when drafted.
It’s particularly gauling that the Colts got a similar amount from the Jets – two future second round picks – for Darnold’s pick in the first place. If I were a Jets’ fan, I’d have expected more. More than anything though, I’d hope that Zach Wilson really is the answer.
Image: The Jet Press