Sam Darnold said he is "relieved" to be with the Carolina Panthers, though he acknowledged that moving on from the team that drafted him was an emotional experience.
Darnold, who landed in Charlotte on Sunday afternoon, told Darin Gantt of the Panthers' official site that "he never imagined being" in Carolina after three seasons with the New York Jets.
"I imagined I was going to be the franchise quarterback of the New York Jets for a long time," he said. "And once you realize that the team that drafted you is moving on, it stings a little bit."
The 23-year-old, who was drafted by the Jets with the No. 3 pick in 2018, was sent to the Panthers in exchange for three draft picks.
The Jets hold the No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft, giving the opportunity to select from a number of top signal-callers to replace Darnold. Doing so would make the Jets the first team since 1967 to select two quarterbacks with top-three picks in a four-year span, according to ESPN Stats & Information (h/t ESPN's Rich Cimini).
Darnold didn't live up to the ceiling of a No. 3 pick during his time in New York. He went 13-25 with 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions on a 59.8 completion percentage. He was the league's lowest-rated passer in 2020, and his career passer rating is the lowest among all quarterbacks since 2018, per Cimini.
With the Panthers, Darnold will have the opportunity to work with one of the league's brightest stars in running back Christian McCaffrey, and he will also reunite with wideout Robby Anderson, whom he spent two seasons with in New York. He said he had been texting with Anderson leading up to his arrival in Carolina.
While his departure from the Jets wasn't what he envisioned for his career, Darnold is clearly looking forward to getting going in Carolina.
"To go from being unwanted to being wanted is huge," Darnold said. "Getting that news that you're going to be traded, of a team saying, 'Hey, we didn't want you,' for whatever reason, is hard. But right now, I feel great about it, and I'm excited to get here and get started."