sam darnold jets
Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

When the Jets traded quarterback Sam Darnold to Carolina Monday, the package of draft picks they received was better than some thought possible.

Ryan Honey

Joe Douglas strikes again. In an offseason in which he’s already improved the talent among either side of the ball, the Jets general manager outdid himself this week.

In the wake of the likely selection of BYU quarterback Zach Wilson at No. 2 overall later this month, the organization ultimately sent Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers. In return for the 2018 first-round quarterback, the Jets received a 2021 sixth-round pick as well as 2022 second- and fourth-rounders.

Sure, at face value, it might not look great. Darnold for a sixth-rounder this year? Wasn’t ESPN’s Adam Schefter saying just a few months ago he could go for a late first-rounder? Didn’t some believe he could’ve gone for a 2021 second- or third-round selection, or potentially both?

Yes, that was the case. But taking everything into consideration, it’s amazing Douglas was able to pull this off.

Trading Darnold was simply a must

It was basically assumed the Jets were going to select a quarterback at No. 2 overall. That’s sort of been a healthy narrative for some time. Douglas didn’t draft Darnold back in 2018 and the organization seemingly needed to undergo a full restart after a two-win 2020 season and the hire of head coach Robert Saleh this offseason — taking a quarterback in the first round always made sense.

Given the “draft a quarterback” route is the one the Jets chose, it’s clear they had to trade Darnold, despite reports saying it was possible they could keep him and still select a rookie at that position.

Thus, given the Jets’ legitimate need to send him elsewhere, prospective trade suitors could’ve carried a ton of leverage and given up less than they originally would’ve.

The lack of possible landing spots

That brings us to our next point: the potential suitors — of which there were eventually only a few.

While the Panthers obviously landed him, the Broncos were reportedly in the mix as well, according to Connor Hughes of The Athletic.

Indianapolis could’ve once found itself in the conversation prior to the trade for Carson Wentz. The same goes for Chicago and Washington before the respective acquisitions of Andy Dalton and Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Steelers were another potential landing spot until they announced that Ben Roethlisberger would be returning for year 18.

The market for Darnold’s services diminished as the offseason progressed, to the point where a legitimate bidding war between teams wasn’t exactly realistic.

Darnold’s on-field issues

Simply speaking, Sam’s play over the course of three seasons just hasn’t been all too intriguing. You could make the argument that he didn’t possess a significant level of assistance around him in Florham Park — and that’s true, he didn’t.

But regardless, the numbers weren’t eye-opening for a guy who was a recent third overall draft pick and supposed to arguably be the franchise’s top signal-caller since Joe Namath.

He dealt with injuries — never playing in all 16 games through three seasons.

He never cracked the 20-touchdown-pass threshold, notching a career-high 19 in 2019.

His career-high passer rating for a season was just 84.3.

And from 2019 to 2020, Darnold regressed in rating, completion percentage, yards per attempt, and yards per game. He additionally appeared in a career-low 12 games this past season — not ideal when the best trait for a starting quarterback is availability.

Douglas still gets it done

But through it all; through the sheer possibility of drafting a rookie, diminishing market, and tough sell that was Darnold’s on-field play, Joe Douglas somehow snagged a trio of picks, all of which will increase the organization’s collection of selections over the next two drafts to a noteworthy 21.

The sixth-round selection for this year could be used on a depth piece, possibly on the offensive line or in the secondary. The needs in next year’s draft remain to be revealed, but regardless, nailing an early Day 2 and/or Day 3 pick could work wonders for a rebuilding franchise.