On Monday afternoon, the New York Jets did what many pundits and fans thought they were going to do during this offseason. General Manager Joe Douglas pulled the trigger on a trade that sent erstwhile quarterback Sam Darnold to Carolina. In return, the Panthers sent their sixth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft as well as a second-round and a fourth-round pick for the 2022 NFL Draft.
Thank you for everything, Sam. pic.twitter.com/QNANmH8Ypv— New York Jets (@nyjets) April 5, 2021
Early Potential in New York
The New York Jets selected Sam Darnold as the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Jets’ previous General Manager, Mike Maccagnan, took a giant risk by trading from the sixth spot with Indianapolis to third. The Jets took Darnold in the hopes he would become the franchise quarterback fans had hoped for. It was a bumpy first couple of months for the rookie, who dealt with injury issues early. Things appeared to be that way when Darnold shined during the month of December of the 2018 season. He went toe-to-toe with Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson and made some spectacular plays in a win at Buffalo.
The Adam Gase Error – er, Era
At the end of the 2018 season, the Jets fired Todd Bowles. A month later, management hires Adam Gase, who was let go by Miami a month before. The hire came with the hopes Gase could turn Darnold into an elite quarterback. The Jets and Darnold got off to sluggish starts in 2019 as Darnold battled mono, missing three of the first four games. The team went 1-7 over the first eight games. They went 6-2 in the last half of the season despite Gase’s coaching deficiencies and the lack of talent around Darnold. A strong finish gave fans some confidence that 2020 would be the year Darnold would make a giant leap forward. Darnold struggled with injuries, inconsistency, and lack of talent (again). The Jets lost their first 13 games on their way to a 2-14 record.
Trades and Rumors of Trades
Mere hours after Week 17, the Jets relieved Gase of his coaching duties and San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was hired two weeks later. Questions abounded on whether Saleh and Douglas would want to move on from Sam Darnold. Given the talent of the 2021 NFL Draft quarterback class and the Jets’ draft position, those questions were eventually going to be answered. What the Jets would get for Darnold? With his talent level sliding, many projected they wouldn’t get much in return. Where would he go? Several teams need a quarterback who is ready to start Week 1 of the 2021 season. Carolina called Douglas and offered a rather generous package of picks. An agreement was made, and the Jets would trade Sam Darnold to Carolina.
The Jets have made their trade and shipped Sam Darnold. Now what? The Jets now have 21 picks over the next two drafts. Joe Douglas has done a solid job in his relatively short tenure as Jets GM. He’s managed to turn what once was two former franchise cornerstones into draft capital. But Douglas won’t be judged on what he’s acquired; he’ll be judged on how he lands. Will he flip those picks for talent or will he choose to draft and develop? Douglas also has a tough decision to make on how to replace Darnold. There’s no way Mike White or James Morgan start on September 12. Does Douglas draft Zach Wilson or Justin Fields and take a one-season flyer on a veteran bridge quarterback like Alex Smith?
Lots of decisions are ahead for Joe Douglas, Robert Saleh, and the Jets. Fans hope that they’re good ones.