Sam Darnold Traded to Panthers from Jets for Multiple NFL Draft Picks

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistApril 5, 2021

New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) warms up before an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Corey Sipkin)
Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

The New York Jets traded quarterback Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a package of draft picks on Monday.

New York will receive:

  • 2021 sixth-round pick (No. 226 overall)
  • 2022 second-round pick
  • 2022 fourth-round pick.

According to Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports, Carolina will exercise the fifth-year option on Darnold's rookie contract. Darnold's fifth-year option would put his 2022 salary at $18.9 million, per Spotrac.

Jets general manager Joe Douglas thanked Darnold in a statement:

"I want to publicly acknowledge the commitment, dedication, and professionalism Sam displayed while with the Jets. He is a tough-minded, talented football player whose NFL story has not been written yet. While all these things are true, this move is in the short- and long-term best interests for both this team and him. We thank Sam for all of his work on behalf of this organization and wish him well as he continues his career."

The 23-year-old spent his first three seasons with the Jets after being the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 draft. After showing promise in each of his first two seasons, he regressed in 2020, ranking as one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL in every major category and advanced stats.

Pro Football Focus gave Darnold a grade of just 58.4 during the regular season.

While it's clear the Jets wanted to move on, there is some level of optimism Darnold's career as an NFL starter can be salvaged. He doesn't turn 24 until June and has spent his career saddled with arguably the worst skill-position talent and coaching in the NFL.

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We've seen several players, including quarterback Ryan Tannehill, vastly improve after moving on from Adam Gase's system in recent years. 

Carolina will provide an upgrade simply by having NFL-quality coaches and a supporting cast. 

The Panthers likely see Darnold as a distressed asset who could thrive under coach Matt Rhule. Teddy Bridgewater mostly underperformed last season with a strong cast of talent around him, and it's possible Darnold will be the long-term option. 

Darnold may benefit from no longer being faced with the pressure of being a franchise quarterback. He's a buy-low flier. If it works out with him, it'll be one of the biggest steals in recent history; if not, there's no harm no foul.