The Sam Darnold era officially is over in New York.
The Jets on Monday traded the fourth-year quarterback to the Carolina Panthers for a 2021 sixth-round draft pick and second- and fourth-round picks in 2022.
Carolina confirmed the trade, which first was reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The move all but guarantees the Jets will the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft on a quarterback. They’ve been linked to BYU’s Zach Wilson, who is widely expected to be the second player off the board behind Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence.
The Jets selected Darnold with the third overall pick in 2018. He’s been one of the NFL’s worst statistical quarterbacks over the course of his career — in 2020, he ranked 33rd among qualified QBs in completion percentage, 32nd in yards per attempt and 35th in passer rating — but played in a dysfunctional offense that lacked talent on the offensive line and at the skill positions and was coached by Adam Gase. At just 23 years old (24 in June), he still has upside and could rebound after a change of scenery.
That’s what the Panthers are banking on. They signed Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year, $63 million contract last year but have been aggressively searching for an upgrade at quarterback this offseason.
Darnold will join a Panthers offense that features a solid assortment of weapons in running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receivers Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore and an up-and-coming play-caller in Joe Brady, who helped guide Joe Burrow to a national championship in 2019.
While it’s possible Carolina still could draft a QB later this month if one it likes falls to No. 8, that’s now unlikely, especially since they plan to exercise Darnold’s fifth-year option, per a report from Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports. The option guarantees Darnold’s salaries of $4.8 million in 2021 and $18.9 million in 2022.
That’s good news for a team like the New England Patriots, who currently own the 15th overall pick and are in the market for their quarterback of the future.