The Sam Darnold Trade Is a Rare Win-Win

On Monday afternoon, the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers made what I call a “Movie Gallery” Trade. It’s not quite a blockbuster, but it’s still big enough to be noteworthy. Three years after taking him in the first round, the New York Jets traded Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers for 2021 sixth round pick, as well as second and fourth round picks in 2022. For me, this trade is about as close to an obvious win-win as you can possibly get, with both sides benefiting immediately.

The Sam Darnold Trade Is a Rare Win-Win

How It Helps New York

Let’s be honest, Sam Darnold was not part of New York’s plans. Regardless of the adversity he’s had to overcome playing for Gang Green, he hasn’t enjoyed a lot of success in his career, and with the second overall pick, the Jets are uniquely positioned to take a quarterback prospect they believe in, likely BYU’s Zach Wilson.

It’s true, they could’ve kept Sam Darnold on the roster, but they obviously had no intention of picking up his fifth-year option, and as a pending free agent, his trade value would be greatly diminished. So instead of paying his salary to sit on the bench, they got three picks, one of which is even a second, for him. Getting a second round pick for a player you would ultimately just lose in free agency is a great move, let alone two additional picks. The Jets just keep compiling picks so they can built a better team around whoever they take after the Jacksonville Jaguars take Trevor Lawrence.

How It Helps Carolina

While a second, a fourth, and a sixth is a good haul to get, it’s not a bad haul to lose. In an era where the Jets got multiple firsts for a safety with two career interceptions, getting a starter for a second and change isn’t bad. And I know this isn’t the world’s most popular opinion, but I think Sam Darnold still has a lot of professional potential. He’s shown flashes of what we saw at USC, and despite a rough start to his career, he’s only 23 years old. Sam Darnold is younger than every starting quarterback in the NFL not-named Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts, or Tua Tagovailoa, and he’s spent the bulk of his career playing underneath the problematic underachiever, Adam Gase. Gase received the “QB genius” tag because he was the offensive coordinator of one of the most explosive offenses of all time, but people tend to forget that Peyton Manning was his quarterback, and, well, taking credit for Peyton Manning when Manning was well past his prime tells you everything you need to know about Gase.

Matt Rhule and Joe Brady are supposedly quarterback geniuses, and while they couldn’t drag production out of Teddy Bridgewater, they’ll have a better shot with Darnold, who despite a rough start, does still have all the tools. Not to mention, he already has a relationship with the head coach (they had a zoom call before the Jets made a devastating mistake hired Gase), and the team’s number one receiver, former teammate, Robbie Anderson.

And here’s the real kicker. The Carolina Panthers still pick eighth overall. Should Trey Lance, Mac Jones, or some other quarterback prospect they’re high on start to slip, they can still get “their guy.” By trading for Darnold, the Panthers no longer “have” to take a quarterback, and can address other needs, like maybe a cornerback?

The Jets move on from a guy they’d ultimately lose in free agency, getting a few draft picks in return. That’s a win. The Panthers get a young quarterback with all the tools, with little to no risk. If he doesn’t pan out, they didn’t give up any firsts or a ton of money, and if he does, I think most teams would be pleased to grab a franchise quarterback with a second round pick.

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