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Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

If the Jets elect to part ways with young quarterback Sam Darnold, where could he potentially play in 2021?

Ryan Honey

Amid the possibility of the Jets drafting BYU quarterback Zach Wilson at No. 2 overall or somehow trading for Deshaun Watson, soon-to-be fourth-year quarterback Sam Darnold might be on his way out of Florham Park.

There are a number of potential suitors, but the list of teams isn’t the same as it once was. The Colts were previously a possible landing spot but they’ve since traded for Carson Wentz. The same went with the Steelers, who will now be bringing back Ben Roethlisberger for year 18 while, for now at least, employing former Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins in a backup role.

Tampa Bay may have also been a target and Darnold could’ve gone there to take on a backup role behind Tom Brady in hopes of getting the nod when Brady ultimately retires (if he ever does). But on Friday, it was reported the Buccaneers and Brady agreed to a four-year extension that voids to one year, so the seven-time Super Bowl winner is currently locked in through at least 2022.

And now, the 49ers are seemingly out on Darnold, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

“The response I’ve received on the Sam Darnold situation is, ‘do not expect the 49ers to be in it,'” Rapoport told “Murph and Mac” on KNBR in San Fran. “Maybe it could change, I guess theoretically anything is possible, I never rule anything out in this ridiculous, stupid world. I do not expect the 49ers, as of my knowledge right now, to be in it.”

So if Darnold is indeed leaving the Jets, which prospective teams are left?

Washington

It’s understandable if people think the following scenario is crazy, but the Jets could keep Darnold up until the draft and still select Wilson. If Washington then misses out on the quarterbacks it’s possibly targeting, such as Ohio State’s Justin Fields, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, and/or Alabama’s Mac Jones, the Jets could carry a significant amount of leverage and ask for the Football Team’s No. 19 overall pick in return for Darnold.

The Jets would likely need to give up their third-round pick (No. 66 overall) as well, so they’d receive a third opening-round pick (to go with the No. 2 and 23 selections they already own) while Washington acquires a third-round choice and a new starting quarterback.

Denver 

Brock Osweiler. Trevor Siemian. Paxton Lynch. Case Keenum. Joe Flacco. Drew Lock. Brandon Allen. Jeff Driskel. Brett Rypien.

Not an ideal list of quarterbacks, but that’s the list of signal-callers the Broncos have started since Peyton Manning won the Super Bowl in February 2016 and then retired thereafter.

Denver is seemingly too patient when it comes to its quarterback situation. The Broncos will need to face Patrick Mahomes at least twice every year for the next decade, and right now, they don’t have what it takes to compete with him once.

I’m not saying Darnold would be the savior, but the bottom line is that Denver needs a quarterback. The Broncos could probably swing their second or third-round pick (No. 40 and 71 overall) or maybe both for Sam.

Chicago

Chicago could end up trading for superstar Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and that may be his top potential landing spot, but of course, nothing is official as of right now. The Bears thus might still be in the running for Darnold should the Jets decide to move off of him.

Regardless, it’s clear Chicago needs a new quarterback — neither Nick Foles nor Mitch Trubisky is the long-term answer, and if Chicago doesn’t have a new signal-caller by the time of the draft, the same hypothetical trade scenario as the aforementioned one between the Jets and Washington could occur.

The same terms apply — the Jets would give up Darnold and their third-round pick for Chicago’s No. 20 overall selection in the opening round.

Houston

There’s still the possibility of the Jets trading for Deshaun Watson, and if there’s anyone that possesses the assets to make a trade happen, it’s New York. Gang Green owns two first-round picks in each of the next two drafts and a young quarterback who could find on-field success if provided with the right situation.

Watson will be absurdly expensive, and that’s if Houston even gives up on trying to repair the relationship with its superstar quarterback and trades him.

At one point, it was looking like three first-round picks and Darnold would be enough for Watson, but with the movement around the league (including a then-32-year-old Matthew Stafford going for two first-rounders, a third-rounder, and quarterback Jared Goff), he may be worth four first-rounders and Darnold if a trade were to occur.

However, Houston’s leverage in a possible trade is at stake. Watson’s value will go down as time progresses, so the Jets could remain patient and somehow give up less for him than they once could’ve.