Jets Rumors: Sam Darnold's Future 'Not Cut and Dry' After Robert Saleh's Arrival

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 16, 2021

Al Pereira

New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas will reportedly keep "all options open" at quarterback heading into the offseason amid questions about Sam Darnold's future with the franchise.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Saturday the Darnold situation is "not cut and dry" despite speculation the hiring of head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur was a good sign for him returning as the team's starting quarterback in 2021.

It's impossible to draw any definitive conclusions about the 23-year-old USC product, who's been saddled with poor coaching and a lackluster supporting cast through three NFL seasons since the Jets selected him with the third overall pick in the 2018 draft.

Darnold has completed 59.8 percent of his throws for 8,097 yards, with 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions across 38 appearances. His 78.6 career passer rating is below average, and he ranked last among qualified quarterbacks in ESPN's Total QBR (40.4) in 2020.

The arrival of Saleh and LaFleur combined with some offseason upgrades to the offense could allow him to make the leap fellow 2018 first-round picks Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen made this season, though.

"I love it here," Darnold told reporters in December. "I love the people, I love living here. I've always said I want to be a Jet for life, but that decision isn't necessarily up to me. But that's how I feel."

The Jets find themselves in an advantageous position with the second pick in the 2021 draft.

They can take their quarterback prospect of choice, likely Ohio State's Justin Fields or BYU's Zach Wilson if Clemson's Trevor Lawrence goes first overall as expected. Or they can put the selection on the trade block and demand a king's ransom from a quarterback-needy team.

Another option if they want to stick with Darnold is taking Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell to bolster one of the league's worst offensive lines.

If the Jets decide to move on at quarterback, the 2017 First-Team All-Pac-12 selection should attract plenty of trade interest as somebody who could potentially thrive in a new environment.

So there are a lot of different variables in play as the Jets plot a path toward ending their 10-year playoff drought, and thus it's not surprising Douglas and the front office want to keep their options open at the sport's most important position.

Saleh and LaFleur, whose fate in New York will likely be heavily tied to finding the right quarterback, will probably have a major say in the decision-making process, as well.