With three weeks until the start of the 2021 NFL league year, the New York Jets’ direction at the quarterback position is still uncertain. According to Pro Football Network’s NFL Insider Tony Pauline, the feeling from some in the league that he’s spoken with is that it is in their best interest — and particularly general manager Joe Douglas — to seek a trade for Jets QB Sam Darnold and start anew by selecting a QB with the second overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.
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What are the options for the New York Jets with Sam Darnold?
During Tuesday’s NFL Draft Insiders show, Pauline addressed the latest he’s hearing on the New York Jets and their future plans at the quarterback position.
“I can’t pinpoint it down that the New York Jets have made a final decision with Sam Darnold. They’re scouting the top quarterbacks that will be available to them in the draft. In my opinion, that’s the best option. Now, I’ve talked with people in the league, and it’s their opinion that the best strategy for Joe Douglas is to actually trade Sam Darnold and select a quarterback with that second choice.”
There seem to be three distinct options available for the New York Jets’ QB situation going forward. Their first option is to trade Sam Darnold and draft a quarterback with the second overall pick in April.
Additionally, they could keep Sam Darnold, still draft a quarterback, and allow a healthy quarterback competition. That approach has worked in the past, with the newcomer invigorating the incumbent QB. However, that option obviously has implications from a financial perspective. As a rough estimate, that would see the Jets committing around $16 million to the quarterback position alone.
Finally, the Jets could keep Darnold and build around him in the hope he can develop into a franchise quarterback.
The latter is seen as a huge risk for Douglas
It’s the biggest reason why people inside the league feel that a trade may be the best solution for not only the New York Jets’ QB situation but for Douglas himself.
“They feel that Sam Darnold is too much of a risk for Joe Douglas. If they keep Darnold and he falls flat in 2021, and the Jets have to start again in 2022 looking for a quarterback, then the writing is going to be on the wall for Joe Douglas. He’s going to have a short leash because he made that decision. If he selects a quarterback with that second choice and then works with the quarterback, he’s going to have some time.”
Of course, there is an element of risk in each decision, but how much risk is there with Sam Darnold?
Darnold’s career in the NFL further demonstrates the risk for Joe Douglas
The third overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft has hardly set the NFL aflame since arriving in the league. Although he has shown some flashes of game-winning ability, there have been more lows than highs for the Jets’ QB. As arguments rage about Justin Fields — a potential replacement remember — and his inability to read the field, let’s not forget Darnold’s “seeing ghosts” game against the New England Patriots in 2019.
Last year, he was more likely to throw an interception than to throw a touchdown. Darnold threw for a touchdown on 2.5 percent of his passing plays. Similarly, he threw an interception on 3 percent of passing plays.
Throughout his short NFL career, he has thrown 45 touchdowns to 39 interceptions. In three years, he’s mustered 8,097 passing yards. Even more troubling, he has yet to play a full 16-game slate since arriving in New York.
Some of Darnold’s issues can be attributed to former head coach Adam Gase. Is it possible he can be reborn with Robert Saleh as head coach and Mike LaFleur as offensive coordinator?
That’s the gamble that might be too much to bet on for Douglas
“Remember, the people that are running the football operation on the Jets — Joe Douglas, Robert Saleh — there is no connection between them and Sam Darnold. They didn’t choose Sam Darnold. What I’m saying is, it’s the opinion of people in the league that the best strategy for the Jets — for Joe Douglas — is to trade Sam Darnold and start anew. You may not agree with it, but it makes a lot of sense.”
It’s important to point out that no decision has been made by the New York Jets on Sam Darnold. They’re going about it the right way. There’s no rushing to make a decision. They’re doing their due diligence on the upcoming quarterback class.
Behind Trevor Lawrence, there are three viable quarterback options in Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, and Trey Lance. In truth, the No. 2 pick would be a little rich for the former North Dakota State standout.
“The Jets are in a real good spot where they are,” and Pauline finishes off with, “and to their credit, they’re approaching it the right way. They’re going to scout the top quarterbacks and make their decision.”
We should find out what the Jets’ QB decision looks like over the next few weeks.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.