As the new NFL year officially gets underway, trade partners for New York Jets QB Sam Darnold are starting to dwindle.
To quote Evelyn Carnahan, Rachel Wiesz’s character from the beloved 1999 film The Mummy, patience is a virtue. Except, apparently, in the NFL.
The New York Jets have bided their time when it comes to their ongoing quarterback quandary. One guarantee remains, that all questions will be solved by the final hours of April 29, the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, where the Jets hold the second overall pick. All but one of the elite rookie names will likely be available to the Jets, who still have a Sam Darnold-sized question to answer: where will the third pick from 2018 take his snaps comes Week 1 of the 2021 campaign.
It’s hard to fully blame Darnold for the current, wayward state of the offense. But with the Jets holding the second overall pick and a new coach in tow, the temptation of starting fresh at football’s most vital position may be too much to resist.
But it’s possible the Jets have been too patient when it comes to Darnold’s future. Several starter-starving teams have settled their vital affairs and have found their solutions. Some took care of the matter early on (Indianapolis trading for Carson Wentz after Phillip Rivers’ retirement), while other solutions have presented themselves more recently (Andy Dalton in Chicago, New Orleans re-signing Jameis Winston after Drew Brees’ departure).
Others have remained stagnant, but at least there’s a clear plan in mind. The Jacksonville Jaguars have addressed other areas of need while actively shopping incumbent Gardner Minshew under the presumed assumption they’ll take Trevor Lawrence with the top overall pick come April. While the Jets have made some agreeable, if not downright underrated, signings this offseason, they’re no closer to solving their quarterback situation than they were in Week 17’s immediate aftermath.
Where else can the Jets turn and where will Darnold end up going? ESM ranks the remaining possibilities…
5. Washington Football Team
With Wild Card hero Taylor Heinicke and living football meme Ryan Fitzpatrick in tow, there’s no doubt that Washington’s passing endeavors will get social media clicks. But is it going to lead to wins? With Curtis Samuel joining college teammate Terry McLaurin, there’s a chance for offensive fireworks in Landover.
Washington does have a little extra draft capital that would be appropriate in a Darnold trade…they hold an extra third-round choice from the Trent Williams trade…but they’re probably set up with the pairing for the time being with their current, popular pair.
— NFL (@NFL) March 17, 2021
4. San Francisco 49ers
The status of incumbent Jimmy Garoppollo has been a hot topic in the Bay Area this winter, especially with the Warriors and Sharks mired in mediocrity. But, interestingly enough, Garoppollo’s future seems a bit more secure after the 49ers made Williams the highest-paid blocker in the history of football and re-upped with secret weapon Kyle Juszczyk.
The Jets have done something similar, adding Corey Davis after his career-best season, though their other offensive areas (particularly the blocking) still leave much to be desired.
3. Seattle Seahawks
The apparent displeasure of Russell Wilson in Seattle has been one of the most curious offseason sagas the NFL has had to offer. Such discontent has apparently had the Seahawks looking into trade possibilities. Wilson’s market is also a lot wider due to his status as an established star and Super Bowl champion. While Seattle has made some moves that will likely picque Wilson’s interest (adding Gerald Everett and Gabe Jackson), it’s likely nothing that’s going to make him fully buy into the Seahawks’ endeavors.
Seattle head coach Pete Carroll has reportedly expressed interest in his fellow USC football alum and the Jets’ previous dealing with the Seahawks through the closing chapters of the Jamal Adams saga. However, one has to think that Seattle, already sidelined in future capital (i.e. no first round picks for the next two years) would want to stop sending their assets out east to get a quarterback whose career has thus far defined mediocrity.
2. Denver Broncos
Denver’s in a bizarrely similar situation as the Jets in that they too are saddled with a young quarterback who has shown flashes of brilliance but not nearly enough to assure them that they don’t have to worry about their passing situation. Perhaps the arrival of another young talent would light a fire under either prospect.
The Broncos already solved one of their biggest offseason issues…exercising the $7 million option on Von Miller…and Darnold can help them solve another, the passing situation that has been in limbo since Peyton Manning retired.
1. Carolina Panthers
Robby Anderson’s time with the Jets didn’t end on a bright note, with the receiver declaring that he was “was losing (his) love for football while clad in a New York uniform. The Jets themselves made little effort to retain him, letting him walk to Carolina. But Anderson and Darnold, the closest thing the Jets have had to an explosive, big-play QB/WR combo in recent memory, still had some kind words for each other. Anderson made it clear that part of the reason he wanted to return to the Jets was because of his rapport with Darnold and the quarterback had nice things to say about Anderson even after his departure.
“Me and Robby had a really good connection over the years,” Darnold said of Anderson in May, per USA Today’s Tyler Greenawalt. “He had gotten a lot better at running routes, as time went on.”
Carolina’s quarterback situation is a questionable state at this point in time. Ex-Darnold mentor Teddy Bridgewater’s return is undoubtedly inspiring, but there are doubts he’s the long-term solution. The current backup plan is XFL star P.J. Walker, so the Panthers could stand to upgrade. Further working in Darnold’s favor is the prescience of offensive guru Matt Rhule as head coach. The NYC native has overseen collegiate offensive fireworks at Temple and Baylor and could be the perfect mind to help fulfill Darnold’s NFL potential.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags