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Sam Darnold Trade Rumors: Multiple GMs Reveal Their Market Value for Jets QB

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2021

FILE - New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold rolls out to pass against the New England Patriots in the first half of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., in this Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, file photo. The 23-year-old quarterback was considered an untouchable player on the roster only a year ago. General manager Joe Douglas has backed off that stance, though, and it could signal a major change at the position as free agency and the NFL draft approach. “I will answer the call if it's made,” Douglas said Wednesday, March 3, 2021, when asked if he'd listen to offers for Darnold from other teams. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
Charles Krupa/Associated Press

The New York Jets have held on to Sam Darnold throughout the offseason despite conventional wisdom having them taking BYU's Zach Wilson with the second pick in next month's draft.

We may now have a better understanding as to why.         

Kimberley A. Martin of ESPN reported Monday that she spoke to several general managers who said they would not be willing to give up more than a third-round pick in exchange for Darnold. One said a late third-round pick would even be a "little rich" for the USC product.

Darnold has been one of the NFL's worst quarterbacks over the last three seasons. Football Outsiders' metrics have ranked him no better than 30th among qualifying quarterbacks in any of the last three campaigns, and only Carson Wentz had a worse season in 2020. Pro Football Focus has given him a grade of no better than 64.7, tantamount to a backup quarterback.

The Jets are 13-25 with Darnold as a starter.

Some of Darnold's struggles are not directly his fault. Adam Gase was perhaps the NFL's worst coach over the last two seasons, and Jets management put together a poor supporting cast that failed to protect Darnold or give him playmakers on the edges. It would have been hard for any quarterback to succeed in those circumstances.

Some teams may see Darnold, still only 23 years old, as an interesting buy-low target. However, he's in the final year of his rookie contract and would make $18.9 million with his fifth-year option—a number no team would be willing to pay given his pro resume. Any franchise that trades for Darnold would be doing so on a one-year flier and then be subject to using the franchise tag or signing him to a long-term contract if he performs well.

The going rate for a young quarterback, even one who's not particularly good, remains high. Wentz will net the Eagles a first-round pick in 2022 if he plays 75 percent of snaps for the Colts next season (or 70 percent and Indianapolis makes the playoffs). 

It seems the NFL has a significantly lower value on Darnold than Wentz.