It is beginning to look more and more likely that the Jets will draft college prodigy Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick in next years draft, replacing Sam Darnold as the face of the Jets franchise. After trading up to draft Darnold with the third overall pick in the 2018 draft, the young QB has really struggled at times with the Jets to prove that he is worthy to lead the team. Admittedly, it’s not all his fault. An appalling o-line, poor coaching and a lack of offensive weapons have lead the young QB to struggle in the NFL.
I mentioned in my last article that Sam Darnold is far from an NFL bust. Although his stats are not fantastic, they are not terrible either and he did manage to lead the Jets to a 6-2 record in the second half of last season. Darnold was tipped by some as the best QB in the 2018 draft and with another team he may have flourished.
But all is not lost for Darnold. There are plenty of teams in need of fresh blood at the quarterback position. Here are 4 possible landing spots for Darnold should the Jets decide to move on from him next season.
Sam Darnold to the Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan has had a stellar career since entering the NFL in 2008 when he was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons with the third overall pick. In his career he has picked up 4 Pro Bowl selections, was the 2016 MVP and Offensive Player of the Year. It’s just a shame really that he has fallen short of a picking up the Lombardi Trophy, but such is the nature of the NFL.
After a disastrous start to the 2019 season, it may be time for the Falcons to move on from their stalwart at QB and bring in some new blood to reinvigorate the offence. After all, he is now 35 years old and is entering the stage in his career were an injury could be catastrophic.
Although Darnold may not be the best fit for the Falcons, they may be just out of striking distance in the draft to land a college QB, possessing the 7th pick overall (this is of course subject to change). With so many teams looking to draft a QB this year, the Falcons may find that they are faced with drafting the best player available with their first round pick.
Many draft experts believe that Darnold is only worth a third round pick at best, maybe a second. Pursuing a trade for Darnold would make good business sense. The Falcons would land a young leader who already has experience in the league and would be available to start immediately should anything go wrong with Matt Ryan. Even if they decide to make Darnold sit behind Ryan for a year, this can only help to improve the QB as they groom him to become the heir apparent.
By giving up two late draft picks to the Jets, a team that is obviously heading into rebuild mode again, they can address other needs in the draft and build their future around this very capable, young quarterback.
Ben Roethlisberger has shown that he still has it at the age of 38, leading the Steelers to an 11-2 season this year after being ruled out for the entirety of last season. But the time has now come for Mike Tomlin and the Steelers back office to try and acquire Big Ben’s replacement. It was obvious last season that the Steelers cannot rely on back up QB Mason Rudolph, who had a poor outing as QB last season, leading the Steelers to a 9-6-1 and missing out on a place in the playoffs.
Trading for Darnold in the off season would help cement the QB position and give the Steelers a legitimate back up if Big Ben goes down again. With weapons such as JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Connor available to him, Darnold would be to show the NFL that he is still the legitimate player he was during his college days. As I said above, Mike Tomlin would already acquire a young QB who is accustomed to life within the NFL, he would just have to make sure he can run the playbook flawlessly.
With the Steelers almost certainly heading to the post season, they would be out of striking range for one of the top QB prospects in this years draft. Trading for Darnold just makes sense. History tells us Roethlisberger has maybe a couple of good seasons left before he starts to really decline, so having his replacement ready to go is essential.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Should the Tom Brady experiment fail, then Tampa will have to address the need at the QB position. After releasing Jameis Winston last off season, they threw all their chips in with Brady and rightly so. He is arguably the greatest quarterback of all time and it gave Tampa a much needed boost after Winston failed to make the cut. With six Super Bowl rings to his name, Brady knows how to lead a team and the importance of winning.
But Brady only signed on for two years and it is anybodies guess as to whether or not he will retire when his contract is up. Tampa have needs all over the field, but trading for Sam Darnold and making him sit behind Tom Brady makes perfect sense.
Not only can Darnold learn from the best while he sits behind him, there are also outstanding offensive weapons such as Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette (if he resigns) that he could use to march the team downfield and put points on the board. In all fairness, Tampa seems like the most likely landing spot for Darnold. If Tampa reaches the playoffs this year and next year, drafting a stellar college signal caller will be unlikely.
New England Patriots
If I was a betting man and was asked where Darnold would like end up, I would say either Tampa Bay or New England.
I found my love for the NFL as the New England Patriots were dominating the league, smashing teams into the dust and dominating the playoffs. You don’t have to like Tom Brady to appreciate what he did for the Patriots and their dynasty.
But as a new decade dawns on the NFL, it is safe to say the Kansas City are set to now dominate the league and the Patriots have been sent back to the subs bench to rebuild. To be fair, New England don’t need a complete rebuild. After Brady departed for Tampa, Bellichek was faced with a difficult decision. Start Brady’s back up or bring in free agent and former MVP Cam Newton to take the helm and try and continue the streak.
It could be argued that the gamble did not pay off for New England and Newton has failed to replicate his performance from his MVP season. Although it could be argued that the Patriots offence is totally different to that at Carolina, Cam still wants to run the ball and make the big plays. But defences are now all over him and try and stop that before it can really make any difference. That isn’t to say it doesn’t work, but he is no Lamar Jackson.
Sam Darnold would be a perfect fit for Belichick’s offensive scheme and he could be easily traded for a very low price. Darnold is a solid pocket passer with a threat of a run game, which is something the Patriots could further develop. With the right amount of nurturing and development from the New England camp, I think Darnold will develop into one of the best signal callers in the league.