The assumption for the New York Jets is that the franchise would trade Sam Darnold to clear room for a quarterback drafted at No. 2. That may not be so, however.
After winning two meaningless games late in the season and costing themselves a chance at Trevor Lawrence in the 2021 NFL Draft, the New York Jets still hold the No. 2 pick. They are almost surely going to draft a quarterback in that spot, most likely either Zach Wilson or, if they shock people at this point, Justin Fields.
However, that still leaves the presence of 2018 first-round pick Sam Darnold on the roster. But given their draft position, it has been conceded as a foregone conclusion that the Jets would trade the quarterback to grab some more value and hand the keys officially to whoever they draft with the second-overall pick.
That may not be as certain as we once though, though. According to a report from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler on Monday, New York hasn’t ruled out drafting a quarterback at No. 2 while still holding onto Darnold for the 2021 season:
There is some merit to the notion of keeping Darnold. The USC product was saddled with a bad roster and bad coaching to start his career. Giving him a year under Robert Saleh and a new regime could possibly boost his trade stock, assuming the Jets pick up his fifth-year option. That would be beneficial in the long run.
On the whole, though, New York would be making a mistake not trading Darnold this offseason.
The Jets would be misplaying their hand with Sam Darnold by not trading him.
Understanding that Darnold’s trade value is not particularly high right now outside of him being a former first-round pick, the Jets would be flying too close to the sun to not trade him in their current position.
For starters, the fifth-year option is risky. Even with Darnold’s limited success, they would have to pay him north of $20 million in 2022, which makes him more difficult to trade, negating the boosting of his stock if he should play well. Furthermore, if he doesn’t play well, they’re saddled with that money, which is a tough spot to be in.
That then brings in the risk of not picking up his option. If they do that, then they could (and likely would) lose a former first-round pick for nothing. That’s even worse for the Jets and their long-term plans as it’s a mismanagement of assets.
More than anything, though, the Jets need to hit a hard reset and get their value for Darnold why they can. The experiment with him and Adam Gase was an abject failure. They cut ties with Gase, now they should trade the quarterback and then truly give the reins to a high-end young prospect. Anything else would, frankly, be misguided.