For months now, nobody has known what the New York Jets would do at quarterback. Do they put their faith in quarterback Sam Darnold for one more year? Could they stay at second overall in the NFL Draft and select a rookie? Or maybe swing for the fences by trading for Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson.
At the same time, who knew what the plan for the Carolina Panthers was. The Panthers signed quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year deal last off-season, but it quickly became clear he was not the long-term answer. And with the eighth overall pick in the NFL Draft, the team easily could make an enticing package for Watson, Wilson, or stay put and draft a rookie.
Well, now the answer is clear for both teams.
On Monday, April 5th, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted out the breaking news that the Jets will send their starting quarterback to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for their 2021 sixth-round pick, as well as a second and fourth-round pick in 2022. So, what does this mean for both sides?
The Carolina Panthers Have a Their Future
Back when the Jets drafted stud USC prospect Sam Darnold in 2018, the team also had Teddy Bridgewater on the roster. Ultimately, Bridgewater was dealt to the New Orleans Saints after Darnold beat him and Josh McCown for the starting job. And now, both are once again competing, this time to save their own careers.
Bridgewater, 28, is coming off an underwhelming season where he led Carolina to a 4-11 record as the starter. He tossed 15 touchdowns to 11 interceptions while completing 69.1% of passes. In the end, the Louisville product threw for 3,733 yards in a year where Christian McCaffrey barely saw the field. By no means is Bridgewater a poor quarterback. Rather he is one that has not shown the ability to take the Panthers’ to where they want to be in 2021 – a rising, competitive football team.
Sam Darnold on the other hand, has the ceiling to do that and more. As he enters his fourth season in the league, Darnold has been plagued by horrendous coaching in New York, in addition to bottom-tier blocking and weapons. When coming into the NFL in 2018, many thought he had the makeup to be a franchise quarterback. Fast forward to today, Darnold, who still is only 23-years-old, will get the chance to play with McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and more on top of reuniting with receiver Robby Anderson.
Yes, the long-term plan in Carolina is clear – Darnold is the future. In fact, the Panthers are already expected to move Bridgewater. But based on Darnold’s career to date, do not be surprised if the Panthers head into training camp with a competition on their hands if they cannot deal Bridgewater.
The New York Jets are Starting Fresh
All along, the best choice for Darnold and the Jets was to part ways. Through three years, the Jets were unable to give Darnold the tools to succeed in the big apple, and Darnold was unable to even out his inconsistencies. Not to mention, the Jets no longer employ the general manager and head coach who drafted Darnold and are currently undergoing a rebuild themselves. With the team’s window for success being longer than Darnold’s contract (with or without his 2022 fifth-year option), it no longer aligns with the rebuild.
New York’s main compensation from the Darnold comes in 2022, with a second and fourth-round pick coming back in return. However, the Jets do receive a sixth-round pick in 2021, giving the team a tenth selection in the NFL Draft.
What this also signals is that the Jets will in fact be drafting a quarterback with the second overall pick. Clemon’s Trevor Lawrence is viewed as a lock for first overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars, meaning the Jets will be picking from the big four behind him. BYU’s Zach Wilson is the favorite to be the pick, though Justin Fields of Ohio State, Trey Lance from North Dakota State, and even Alabama’s Mac Jones could also be options. The bottom line, gang green will have a rookie under center in 2021.
A Great Deal for All Parties
At the end of the day, this could be one of those trades that benefits all involved right away. The Panthers give up fair compensation in exchange for a young, still cheap quarterback. New York does right by Darnold in sending him to a stable situation. And the Jets get the picks necessary to continue to rebuild around whoever they draft at second overall.