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The Jets ended the Sam Darnold drama and era on Monday, trading the quarterback to the Panthers for three draft picks. Here are some thoughts on the move.
1. I thought the Jets needed to move on from Darnold. Yes, there are many factors that played a role in his struggles, but I think Darnold defenders do not put enough blame on him. The inconsistency and struggles that he showed can’t be blamed entirely on the coaches or his supporting cast. Darnold struggled to read defenses. He made head-scratching decisions. By the end, he was at his best when he was not asked to do a lot. Darnold was becoming a game manager, not a franchise quarterback.
Throw in his contract status and I thought the Jets had to trade him. Darnold has one year left on his rookie contract plus his fifth-year option for 2022 ($18.9 million), which must be picked up by early May. That is no-man’s land. The Jets are not going to be good this season. There are too many holes to fill. So, if Darnold had a mediocre season (20 touchdowns, eight interceptions) and the team went 7-10 (weird, I know), then what? Do you give him a contract extension off of that?
As for the Ryan Tannehill fear, that Darnold will now blossom on another team, I think Darnold will play better with a better team around him. Darnold has talent and a good team will help him show that more. The offensive line here was terrible in his three seasons. There were games when Josh Malone and Braxton Berrios were his top receivers. But I don’t think Darnold is ever going to be a top-five quarterback.
Bottom line is Douglas had to make this move. Who knows how Zach Wilson, whom the Jets are expected to pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, will perform? That evaluation is on Douglas and his staff. Ultimately, this trade will be judged by how Wilson plays here. If he is great, fans will forget about Darnold, even if he plays well in Carolina.
2. As for the compensation – a sixth-round pick this year, a second- and a fourth-round pick in 2022 – I think it is a fair deal. It became clear the Jets were not getting a second-rounder this year for Darnold, as had been speculated. There was not enough of a market. Instead, Douglas got one next year and the Jets now have two first-rounders and two second-rounders next year to help Douglas build the roster. Throw in the fourth-rounder next year and the Jets got a good package without much leverage after it became apparent they were drafting Wilson.
3. Finally, good for Darnold. He gets a fresh start with a good coaching staff and some weapons around him. Darnold handled himself with class and maturity during his entire stay here. Darnold had about as many roadblocks to clear as possible for a first-round pick. He never complained about the organization or getting criticized.
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