It seems the whole NFL world is waiting on a single decision. Will the New York Jets trade Sam Darnold? This one simple question would have massive ramifications across the league. If the Jets do end up trading QB Sam Darnold, where are some potential landing spots?
Sam Darnold Landing Spots: Trade partners for the Jets QB
The NFL is in a state of limbo, waiting on a decision from the Jets on Sam Darnold
Who would have thought that Sam Darnold might end up being the most impactful player of the 2021 offseason? Well, there is the whole Deshaun Watson standoff going on, but let’s not steal Darnold’s time in the spotlight.
What the Jets end up doing with Sam Darnold will shake up their team’s plans and several others. Say they choose to give him another season, do they select Zach Wilson at No. 2? Maybe they go OT with Penei Sewell, thus hurting the Cincinnati Bengals’ chances at No. 5. The other option is that head coach Robert Saleh does not want his future riding on Sam Darnold and is looking feverishly for a landing spot to send him to.
Sticking with Sam Darnold could cost Joe Douglas his job
The decision on whether or not to trade Sam Darnold is also massive for GM Joe Douglas. According to PFN NFL Insider Tony Pauline, this decision could be enough to make or break his tenure with the team.
“They [people around the league] 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.”
Is there a trade market for Sam Darnold if this ends up being the choice?
It’s one thing to want to trade someone, but without a potential landing spot for Sam Darnold, the decision is pointless. According to Pauline, he believes there is a market for the former first-round pick.
“I think the fact that people are calling for Sam Darnold, which should be no surprise, because I reported this back in November when it looked like the Jets were done with Darnold. There are a lot of people in the league that still value him. They still think he’s a good quarterback, he just needs to be coached correctly.”
The latter part is the point that sticks out — the “coached correctly” bit. We all know good and well that was not happening with Adam Gase. As long as other teams feel the same way, several potential landing spots for Sam Darnold come into the picture.
Where are some landing spots for Sam Darnold if the Jets decide to trade him?
Could Sam Darnold plus the farm be enough for the Texans to be the landing spot in a trade?
There is no point in beating around the bush; let’s get right to the big one. We are all waiting to see if the Houston Texans have screwed up enough to where Deshaun Watson won’t blink, and they must trade him. There is a line in the sand the size of Texas, and if push comes to shove, they will need to find the best possible return.
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Option A would be Miami, but the next best trade partner could be with the New York Jets. The Jets have multiple first-round picks and would send them Sam Darnold in the trade, along with whatever else it would take. According to Pauline, he would not count out the Jets from making such a move.
“The only thing I would say is don’t forget about the New York Jets. Woody Johnson is back in the picture with the New York Jets. He is back in charge. Remember, Woody Johnson’s two biggest moves, or two of his biggest moves as owner, was trading for Brett Favre, and trading for Tim Tebow. They both turned out to be busts. So, I could see Woody Johnson [trading again], with all the cap room the Jets have, if it comes to fruition where they have a chance to bring in Deshaun Watson.”
If Houston is the landing spot for Sam Darnold in a trade, the Jets pulled off an all-timer of a trade that will even make the DeAndre Hopkins trade of 2020 look like Monopoly money.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a logical landing spot for a Sam Darnold trade
Look, Mason Rudolph ain’t it. Excuse the grammar, but chances are, we have seen enough to arrive at the same conclusion. Regardless of how much Mike Tomlin wants to express confidence in him, I do not see it.
Personally, I am shocked that Ben Roethlisberger decided to come back. Now 39, Big Ben will have to rely on an offensive line that will return two of the five starters. He will also be missing both JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner to free agency.
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At max, this is a one-year band-aid where he hopes to go out the same way he helped Jerome Bettis go out — on top. Past that, all bets are off. Trading for Sam Darnold makes sense, as he can learn behind a future-Hall-of-Fame QB and get the same “Masterclass” that Jameis Winton talked about when going to New Orleans.
While Tomlin has won, he has failed to develop the QB of the future. Pittsburgh emerging as the landing spot for Sam Darnold in a trade could help rectify that and keep the Steelers’ winning ways intact.
Does San Francisco make sense as a landing spot for Sam Darnold in a trade?
Yes and no. It has become clear that the 49ers are not enamored with Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers’ brass views him as an okay option but not someone they would willingly choose. Odds are, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan will be trying to move up in the draft to select a QB. The other option is to address the problem before the draft kicks off, allowing draft capital to focus on other vital team needs such as cornerback.
Don’t get me wrong — I am not saying that Sam Darnold is the better option for this scenario, just a different one. While his career numbers are not great (8,097 yards in three seasons, a 39:45 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and a sub-60% completion percentage), there is still talent there.
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Meanwhile, there may be no one better at developing talent than Shanahan when it comes to QBs. If he sees Sam Darnold as this raw, blank canvas, he can use his skills to mold him into the QB who fits his system. While 49ers fans might not want to be the landing spot for a Sam Darnold trade, it does have its merit.
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Tommy Garrett is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the NFL and fantasy football. You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.