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Sam Darnold Would Embrace Jets' Rookie QB Despite Trade Rumors, Says Josh McCown

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistApril 4, 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

Former New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown sees a scenario where Sam Darnold and Zach Wilson can co-exist on the roster in 2021.

He told Rich Cimini of ESPN:

"Can it be done? Absolutely. In my mind, if you can't get the value now for him, that's absolutely how you go about it. I wouldn't even call it a competition. I would just say, 'We're going to go with Sam as the guy and bring Zach along.' If Sam knocks it out of the park, we'll re-evaluate where we are a year from now.

"Sam would embrace it and be helpful, but he'd also go out and work hard and try to make the most of the opportunity to play this year—and put it back on them and make them have to make a tough decision at the end of the year. I think, if that happens, really and truly, everybody wins."

The Jets have explored the trade market for Darnold all offseason but have not found an offer to their liking for the 2018 No. 3 overall pick. It's considered a foregone conclusion that the team selects Wilson with the second pick in this month's draft, which would ostensibly mean the end of Darnold's time as Jets' starting quarterback.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported the Jets are open to keeping Darnold on the roster, which seems both understandable and not entirely prudent at the same time.

Darnold has been perhaps the NFL's worst quarterback over the last three seasons. He's ranked no higher than 30th in Football Outsiders' quarterback metrics in any season, and he was ahead of only Carson Wentz in DYAR in 2020. While the Jets failed to provide Darnold with competent coaching or quality playmakers, he has flashed little ability to improve his surroundings with his talent.

Kimberley A. Martin of ESPN spoke to NFL general managers who seemed to indicate the Jets' best-case scenario for Darnold would be getting a third-round pick. That seems like a fine outcome in terms of straight-up value, but Wentz just went for a third-rounder and a conditional second-round pick that could turn into a first.

The new Jets brass may rightfully see Darnold as a distressed asset they could coach up and make more valuable in 2021. However, that would come at the cost of Wilson's development and put the Jets in an awkward contractual pickle. The team will almost certainly not pick up Darnold's $18.9 million fifth-year option, but any scenario in which Darnold shows tangible improvement would force the Jets to use their franchise tag in 2022 on a player they're seeking to trade.

Everyone cutting their losses and moving on seems like the most sensible move—even if McCown is right about Darnold being willing to come in and compete.