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Sam Darnold Trade Partners: Bears, Panthers, Washington interested?

Sam Darnold has been the subject of much speculation, but what is the latest on his future with the Jets, and who are the top trade partners?

It’s safe to say that Sam Darnold hasn’t been what the New York Jets envisioned when they selected him with the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Injury, illness, and inconsistency have plagued his young NFL career, and the Jets, who have the second pick in the upcoming draft, could be looking to trade him.

Be sure to join PFN Chief NFL Analyst Trey Wingo and Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline every week on Draft Insiders as they break down all you need to know heading into the 2021 NFL Draft. Subscribe to our PFN YouTube channel and hit the notifications icon so you can tune in live every Wednesday at 9 PM ET.

Will the New York Jets pick Zach Wilson?

On the most recent Draft Insiders episode, Pro Football Network’s Chief Draft Analyst and NFL Insider Tony Pauline had an update:

“Last week before the pro day, I said that it was 90% that Sam Darnold was going to be traded, and they were going to take Zach Wilson with the second pick. I was hedging because I wanted to see his pro day. It’s about 99%. I think Zach Wilson will be a New York Jet. I’m not going to say it’s set in stone because we’ve got to wait for those medicals.

“Those are the most critical parts. In any normal year, the New York Jets will have had all the medical information by now because it would have taken place at the Combine in late February. Now, it’s a little bit later than usual for all of the players who are being invited to Indianapolis for the Combine medical.”

Will Sam Darnold be traded?

PFN’s Chief NFL Analyst Trey Wingo wanted to know more about potential trade partners for Darnold, noting that, “[Jets general manager] Joe Douglas has said ‘I’ll pick up the phone, and I’ll listen,’ but there hasn’t been a bunch of teams, from what I’ve heard, calling and inquiring about Darnold.”

Pauline responded, “Obviously, the market is shrinking. It’s probably going to be a third-round type pick. The Colts are out; the 49ers are now out. Maybe you’re looking at Washington; maybe you’re looking at Chicago. I guess the sleeper would be the Carolina Panthers. That is the sleeper team unless they want to move up and get a quarterback.

“They talked about Deshaun Watson. The owner, David Tepper, wanted Deshaun Watson. I don’t know if that’s the situation right now, given everything Deshaun Watson has going on, but I think the Panthers would be the sleeper team as far as Sam Darnold is concerned. And you’re likely looking at a third-round pick or a fourth-round pick that could be a conditional upgrade depending on how much Darnold plays à la the Carson Wentz trade to the Indianapolis Colts.”

Sam Darnold Trade Partners

Washington Football Team

The Washington Football Team has been on a quarterback rollercoaster in the last decade. The excitement of trading up to select Robert Griffin III was quickly cut short due to a devastating injury in an electric rookie season, after which he was never the same.

Kirk Cousins looked as if he might be the answer but couldn’t agree to a long-term extension and left to join the Minnesota Vikings.

The team traded for Alex Smith, but his career-threatening injury meant that they ended up drafting Dwayne Haskins in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Haskins wouldn’t even make it through two seasons before being cut.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has been penciled in as the team’s starter for 2021, but he’s 38 years old with a history of inconsistent play. With one of the more talented teams in the NFL, could Sam Darnold be the player to take Washington deep in the playoffs?

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears’ quarterback situation has been nothing short of a disaster in recent years. Mitchell Trubisky became the first Bears quarterback to be named to the Pro Bowl since 1986 when he was called up as an alternate in 2018. He’ll mainly be remembered as a disappointment, though, especially as he was selected before Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.

The Bears recently signed Andy Dalton to compete with Nick Foles for the starting position. Picking 20th in the 2021 NFL Draft, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to get close to one of the top five QBs barring a surprise. Darnold would give them a young, low-risk option.

Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers are regularly among the teams linked with a quarterback. Teddy Bridgewater was a low-level starter in 2020 and is entering the last year of his contract. Head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady appear to be looking for an upgrade and are leaving no stone unturned. The team has been linked with trades for several proven QBs this offseason, including Watson and Russell Wilson.

The Panthers are currently picking eighth in the draft. With the genuine possibility of four quarterbacks in the first four picks, they risk missing out on their preferred option. If they cannot trade up and a player of their liking doesn’t fall to them, Darnold could provide an upgrade over Bridgewater.

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