Sam Darnold Trade

Sam's the winner. Period.

Jim Rome
April 06, 2021 - 9:50 am
Sam Darnold

USA Today


Two of the worst kept secrets in football are: the Jets want to trade Sam Darnold and the Panthers want a quarterback.

So yesterday, the Jets traded Sam Darnold to the Panthers. That was the peanut butter in my chocolate, chocolate in my peanut butter of trades – LIKE THERE’S NO WAY THAT WASN’T GOING TO HAPPEN.

The Jets sent Darnold to Carolina for a sixth round pick in this year’s draft, plus a second and fourth in next year’s draft. Which all points to a third open secret – the Jets are taking Zach Wilson with the second pick in this year’s draft.

And there are a lot of different ways to look at this.

First of all, you have to tip your cap to the Jets because this trade completes an incredible streak – they have now traded away six straight first round picks. Six. That is awesome. That is outstanding.

Nothing but respect for that organization stepping up to the plate, every single year, and whiffing on finding guys who are either good or want to stay around. Because some of those picks were bad and New York wanted to get rid of them and some of them were good and they wanted TO GET RID OF THE JETS.

And while it would be easy to clown them for missing on yet another first round pick, I actually am impressed with what Joe Douglas got back in this trade. They managed to get three picks, including a second round pick, for a player that everyone knew they had to trade. That is pretty solid work. I mean, it only matters if they can actually get usable players with those picks, but at least they gave themselves a shot.

If I were to rank the winners and losers in this deal, the biggest winner is Sam Darnold. And it’s not even close.

1 – He’s getting away from the Jets. 2 – He’s going to the Panthers and will instantly walk into a situation where he has the best offensive coordinator he’s ever worked with and the most weapons he’s had in his NFL career as well. And 3 – he’s getting away from the Jets.

I can’t imagine the scar tissue that this guy has after how his career started in New York and then the last two years in particular.

No wonder he and his crew were partying yesterday and having a little get together with black and teal balloons. This is a guy who endured two years with Adam Gase and now he gets to go hang out with Joe Brady and Matt Rhule? I’d be looking to blow up some balloons and SLAM EXPENSIVE BOOZE TOO

The other fascinating thing about this deal is what it means for the Panthers. First off, it’s pretty clear they aren’t sold on Teddy Bridgewater and they aren’t in love with that contract that they gave him last offseason.

As I’ve said before and will say again, and the trades this year have proven once again, the NFL is a quarterback’s league. Either you have one or you don’t. If you’ve got a quarterback, you’ve got a shot. If you don’t, you better be doing everything you can to get one.

And that’s what the Panthers have been doing for months now.

That’s why they tried to make a run at Matthew Stafford, but came up short. And why they had been jonesing to get Deshaun Watson, but that’s certainly not happening right now.

This trade for Darnold also means they didn’t like their chances of getting a quarterback they wanted with the 8th pick. Not after San Francisco traded up to the third spot.

The Niners trading up to that spot is further proof – it doesn’t matter how much talent you have on your roster, if you don’t have a quarterback you believe in, it doesn’t matter.

So the Panthers are going with Darnold. And while he’s not Stafford or Watson or Trevor Lawrence or Zach Wilson, he could still be something. It is really hard to evaluate him given the complete and utter mess that he was in with the Jets.

How much of that was on him? How much of that was on Gase? And how much was on the Jets just being the Jets?

Does a trip down to Carolina and the chance to wash the stink of the Jets off him change ANTHING?  DOES IT CHANGE everything? The Panthers are betting it will.

And honestly, I could see that happening. Look at what happened to Ryan Tannehill when he got away from Adam Gase. He went from being a bust to a Pro Bowl quarterback. I’m not saying that Darnold is a Pro Bowler-in-waiting, but I would definitely say we haven’t seen the best of him. There’s potential there that the Jets were never going to get out of him.

Again, I’m not saying he’s a guaranteed Pro Bowler, but I’d much rather be the Panthers with Sam Darnold than the Bears with Andy Dalton. At least there’s some hope with Darnold.

Can they unlock his potential? If you had to pick a coaching staff to do it, Carolina’s would be near the top. And if the Panthers can do that, they’ve got their quarterback of the future. If they can’t, the search will continue.