ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on April 5 that the Carolina Panthers agreed to a trade with the New York Jets for Sam Darnold. New York selected Darnold with the third overall pick in 2018, but the USC product suffered from injuries and inconsistent play during his first three seasons. The Jets receive a sixth-round pick in 2021 and second and fourth-round selections in 2022 as part of the deal.
Filed to ESPN: Jets trading QB Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers for a 2021 sixth-round pick and second- and fourth-round picks in 2022, per sources.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 5, 2021
Carolina aggressively pursued multiple quarterback options this offseason, including Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson. Schefter reported in early February that the Panthers offered the eighth overall pick plus a fifth-round selection in this year’s draft and starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for Stafford. Instead, Detroit sent the veteran to Los Angeles.
Darnold didn’t live up to expectations in New York. Many analysts viewed him as the potential first overall pick three years ago, but the Cleveland Browns selected Baker Mayfield instead. The New York Giants took Saquon Barkley second, leaving Darnold for the Jets. The USC product went 13-25 during his 38 starts, throwing 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions along the way.
Following Darnold’s rookie season, New York fired head coach Todd Bowles in favor of Adam Gase. The offensive-minded coach never got a foothold in New York, and the Jets fired him earlier this offseason. Darnold showed potential going 7-6 as a starter in 2019, but the former Trojan suffered through the worst season of his career in 2020. Darnold is only 23 years old.
Immediately following the trade’s announcement, CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones reported that Carolina will exercise the fifth-year option on Darnold’s rookie contract for 2022. May 3 was the deadline for Carolina’s decision on the fifth year, but the Panthers didn’t hesitate. Darnold makes $18.8 million, fully guaranteed, in the final season of his rookie deal.
The Panthers will exercise QB Sam Darnold's fifth-year option, per source.
— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) April 5, 2021
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport suggested that the Panthers could trade Bridgewater or shrink his salary cap hit for the coming season. The former Pro Bowl quarterback is in the second season of a three-year, $63 million deal he signed in 2020. Carolina has a potential out after the 2021 season that would only cost the team five million in dead cap.
What now for #Panthers QB Teddy Bridgewater? Expect Carolina to look to move him. Either that, or look at options to adjust his contract.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 5, 2021
As for the Jets, fans and analysts expect they’ll draft a quarterback with the second overall selection this year. Third-year general manager Joe Douglas didn’t draft Darnold. Now, he and newly acquired head coach Robert Saleh have a chance to tie their jobs to a rookie quarterback. BYU’s Zach Wilson and Ohio State’s Justin Fields are the leading candidates to replace Darnold.
Douglas released a statement praising Darnold’s abilities following the trade’s announcement.
“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,” Douglas wrote. “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 Jets and Panthers face off at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte this season.
After a flurry of trades over the past two years, the Jets have 21 picks in the next two drafts, including two first and second-rounders in 2022. None of those picks are in the seventh-round, which speaks to the quality and volume of assets Douglas has acquired since becoming general manager.