sam darnold jets
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The number of teams the Jets could possibly do business with when it comes to quarterback Sam Darnold may be diminishing.

The Jets could part ways with Sam Darnold and draft BYU’s Zach Wilson at No. 2 overall. This would lead to New York trading its quarterback three years after drafting him, but where?

The list of potential trade suitors for Darnold was once fairly large, but that metaphorical spreadsheet might be shrinking, especially after multiple free agency moves have been made by numerous teams.

Let’s discuss who was on the list earlier this offseason.

The Saints: There was a possibility Darnold could’ve headed to New Orleans amid the then-speculation Drew Brees was retiring. But now that the legendary quarterback has actually called it quits, the Saints have invested in both Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston and will be rolling the dice with those two guys in 2021.

The Steelers: Big Ben out, Darnold in?

That could’ve once been the case, but the Steelers recently announced Ben Roethlisberger will be returning for year 18. The organization additionally signed pending third-year man Dwayne Haskins, so the former Washington quarterback may be the succession plan should 2021 be Ben’s final season.

The Colts: Earlier in the offseason, Philip Rivers’ future was unclear. Then, when he retired, Indianapolis was even more of a potential landing spot for Darnold.

Carson Wentz is now the starter in Indy though. The Colts traded for the former Eagles quarterback in February.

The 49ers: There’s lingering uncertainty regarding the on-field ability of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, so San Francisco was a possible trade suitor at one point. However recently, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport told the “Murph and Mac” show on KNBR in San Fran he doesn’t believe the 49ers will be in the running.

Washington: Darnold to the nation’s capital? To fill the missing piece for what could be a successful NFC East squad?

There was a thought to that potential development, but according to Dianna Russini of ESPN, a trade involving Darnold and the Football Team isn’t likely to occur.

Washington additionally agreed to sign veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick earlier this week.

The Bears: Chicago’s quarterback situation once involved Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky, two quarterbacks whose futures are uncertain amid lingering on-field struggles.

Nonetheless, on Tuesday, the Bears agreed to terms with veteran quarterback Andy Dalton, who could possess a real chance of starting next season.

The Texans: Darnold and picks to Houston for Deshaun Watson?

A possibility indeed, but on Tuesday, the likelihood of that development dwindled. The Texans agreed to sign veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who could be a temporary backup plan should Watson actually not play for Houston ever again.

It’s a long list of teams, and it’s unfortunate each of those teams has possibly exited what would be dubbed the “Sam Darnold Sweepstakes.”

It leaves us with just one remaining organization that could send assets to Gang Green for a new starting quarterback.

The Denver Broncos.

The Broncos could be in the running for Deshaun Watson, but if a trade involving the superstar Texan doesn’t come to fruition, there’s a chance they make a move for Darnold should the Jets end up moving off of him. Denver would probably need to give up its second and/or third-round picks (No. 40 and/or 71 overall) for Sam, which would increase the Jets’ number of 2021 draft selections to 11 or 12.

Darnold would thus join an organization that hasn’t resolved its quarterback issue since Peyton Manning won the Super Bowl in February 2016 and then retired. Brock Osweiler wasn’t the answer. Paxton Lynch wasn’t the answer. Neither was Case Keenum, Trevor Siemian, or Joe Flacco. Now, neither is Drew Lock (at least we don’t think).

This team employs talented offensive weapons in Melvin Gordon, Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant, and Courtland Sutton. A serviceable quarterback is needed; Darnold could be that guy.

At this point, he may have to be. If Zach Wilson is the future of the Jets franchise, New York may have nowhere else to send Sam, while the Broncos may have no other options other than to roll the dice with Lock (a risk) or draft a quarterback at No. 9 overall (it’s unknown who would be available).

Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.