Sam Darnold

Jets Will “Answer” Calls On Sam Darnold

If teams call the Jets about Sam DarnoldJoe Douglas will answer the phone. On Wednesday, the Jets GM said that he’s willing to listen on trade inquiries for the quarterback. 

I will answer the call, if it’s made,” Douglas said (Twitter link via Ralph Vacchiano of SNY). “Sam is, we think, a dynamic playmaker in this league with dynamic talent … But if calls are made, I will answer them.”

Before the NFL’s 2019 trade deadline, Douglas said that Darnold was untouchable. Now, he’s singing a different tune. The Jets have reportedly received real interest in the former USC standout, though Douglas seems to be indicating that the inquiries have yet to come in.

The Jets, armed with ~$90MM this offseason, have plenty of options. A Darnold trade could allow them to use the No. 2 overall pick on their next quarterback of the future. On the flipside, they could keep Darnold — if the offers aren’t to their liking — and take the best player available at No. 2, or trade down from there to fill multiple needs. No matter what, Douglas says he isn’t in any rush.

We feel like [there’s no] hard timeline in the immediate future to make a decision,” Douglas said.

That jibes with what we’ve heard so far — the Jets plan to go through much of the draft process, including Pro Days and interviews, before making their Darnold decision. Of course, the right package from another team could alter those plans.

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Jets’ Uncertainty At QB Could Influence Free Agency Success

There’s a lot of uncertainty at quarterback for the Jets. Maybe the team will take a quarterback like BYU’s Zach Wilson with the second-overall pick. Maybe they’ll pull off a blockbuster trade for Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson. Or maybe they’ll stick with their incumbent, former third-overall pick Sam Darnold.

As Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv writes, the Jets’ unpredictable quarterback situation could influence their ability to attract free agent wideouts to New York. Besides the obvious financial details of an offer, an agent told the reporter that receivers will be most focused on who’s under center as they evaluate signing with the Jets.

“It’s the first question they’re all going to ask, after they know the money,” the agent said. “Money is always going to matter most to some guys. But if it’s close, the Jets are going to have some tough questions to answer.”

“Players don’t like uncertainty,” said a different NFL agent. “I would think those [top receivers] will want to know who their quarterback is going to be, not just for this year, but for the length of their new deal.”

The Jets may not be able to provide that type of clarity to free agents. As Vacchiano notes, GM Joe Douglas is currently evaluating the top quarterback prospects and weighing their ability against Darnold’s ability. Unfortunately, Wilson’s Pro Day isn’t until March 26, while Ohio State’s Justin Fields will be holding his Pro Day on March 30. Free agency starts on March 17, and at that point, the Jets could still be weeks away from making their own internal decision about the position.

Thanks to the poor timing, there’s a chance some of the top free agent wideouts skip New York’s hypothetical offer and join a team with a bona fide starting quarterback. There will be more than half a dozen teams that could look to add free agent wideouts, and if top names like Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson, or Kenny Golladay get slapped with the franchise tag, that means there will be an even higher demand for second-tier receivers (like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Will Fuller, and Corey Davis).

On the flip side, the Jets have more financial flexibility than most teams, as they’ll be armed with $90MM heading into the start of free agency. Even if the team has yet to decide on their direction at quarterback by March 17, they could still entice a free agent with a massive overpay.

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Latest On Jets, Sam Darnold

The Jets are planning to complete their evaluations of the top quarterbacks in the draft before making any decisions on Sam Darnold, according to sources who spoke with NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). That process includes Pro Days and interviews, which means that Darnold won’t be shipped out anytime soon. 

Rapoport hears that the Jets have received real interest in Darnold, so there is a market for the former USC standout. From here, the Jets have lots of options. They could trade Darnold and draft their next QB at No. 2 overall. Or, they could keep him and take the best player available at No. 2, regardless of position. The Jets could also stick with Darnold and trade down from No. 2 with a team targeting a signal caller.

In the Carson Wentz deal, the Eagles scored a second-rounder that can turn into a first-rounder, plus a third-round pick. It’s been said that Darnold could be had for little more than a Round 2 choice, though there’s reason to believe that the Jets could top the Eagles’ haul. After all, Darnold is younger, and still has time remaining on his lower-cost rookie deal.

Darnold hasn’t impressed as a pro, but he also hasn’t been the best of opportunities. The former No. 3 overall choice completed just 59.6% of his throws for 2,208 yards and nine touchdowns against eleven interceptions last year.

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Latest On Jets, Sam Darnold

With Carson Wentz now a member of the Colts, the next quarterback domino to fall could be Sam Darnold. The former second overall pick’s status is up in the air, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s starting for the Jets next season or if he’s shipped out for whatever trade compensation New York can get. In a recent piece, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com runs through all the plausible scenarios for Darnold.

Trade him and draft a quarterback, keep him and take the best player available at number two, or keep him and trade down with a team looking for a passer. Cimini writes that “there are some who believe” the Jets could get more for Darnold than the Eagles got for Wentz. Philly, of course, got a third-round pick and a second-rounder that can turn into a first-rounder if Wentz plays 75 percent of the snaps for Indy this season. We heard just yesterday that potential compensation for Darnold would be a second-rounder, but apparently others in league circles think it would take more.

One league source highlighted to Cimini that Darnold is under team control relatively cheaply for the next two years as a reason why. If the Jets do decide to throw in the towel on Darnold and start over, Cimini writes that his “hunch” is that it would be for BYU’s Zach Wilson with the second pick.

Interestingly, Cimini says that a source from one team that had inquired with the Jets about trading for the former USC star “came away with the impression Darnold won’t be dealt.” We heard a couple weeks ago that multiple teams had called about Darnold, and it doesn’t sound like those calls were too productive.

Many have treated it like a foregone conclusion that Darnold will be dumped this offseason, but that sentiment is probably misguided. If he is dealt, one hypothetical trade that Cimini floats is between the Jets and Washington, with the teams swapping first-round picks (19 & 23), and Washington sending their second-rounder this year and their third-rounder next year.

If they stand pat at number two and don’t trade Darnold or trade down, Cimini currently projects them to take LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase as the best player available. We should hear a lot more about Darnold in the coming weeks and months, so stay tuned.

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Jets QB Sam Darnold Worth Second-Round Pick?

Whether via trade or via the draft, there’s a chance the Jets could bring in a new quarterback this offseason … meaning Sam Darnold would naturally find himself on the trade block. Sources tell Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv that the return for Darnold has “long been projected to be a second-round pick, plus maybe another mid-to-late rounder.”

New head coach Robert Saleh and new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur believe Darnold may have “untapped potential,” but that apparently hasn’t stopped teams from inquiring about the quarterback’s availability. After all, this would seemingly be a prime opportunity for the team to restart at the position.

For starters, the team could easily select BYU quarterback Zach Wilson with the second-overall pick. Alternatively, the organization could make a run at Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who has continually been connected to the organization. To top it all off, the Jets are only months away from having to make a decision on Darnold’s fifth-year option; that move would pay the quarterback around $25MM in 2022, and the two sides would still have to figure out a long-term pact.

Darnold hasn’t necessarily been put in a position to succeed since being selected with the third-overall pick in the 2018 Draft. However, after taking a clear step forward in 2019, the 23-year-old may have taken two steps back in 2020. Darnold finished the campaign having connected on only 59.6-percent of his passes for 2,208 yards, nine touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. The Jets went 2-10 in his 12 starts.

As Vacchiano writes, the recent Carson Wentz trade (which saw the quarterback traded for a third-round pick and a conditional second-round pick) shouldn’t have any impact on Darnold’s value. This isn’t much of a surprise; besides the shared position, the two players don’t share similar situations. Wentz was significantly more expensive than Darnold, and he’s also dealt with a long list of injuries. Darnold is significantly cheaper in 2021, although he hasn’t come close to matching Wentz’s on-field production.

“There are so many unknowns with Darnold,” a source told Vacchiano. “He’s got a ton of potential, but he’s also had three years to show it. You’re taking a chance that he’ll be better away from the Jets, that he’s not damaged goods. He probably will be good in a better situation.

“But then you’ve only got a year to figure him out before you have to pay him, too.”

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Latest On Panthers’ Quarterback Outlook

The Panthers were prepared to part with their current starting quarterback and their No. 8 overall pick for Matthew Stafford, and owner David Tepper appears prepared to approve a guns-blazing push for Deshaun Watson.

Carolina is believed to be in on a few quarterbacks in this complex offseason at the position, according to The Athletic (subscription required), but the team was not viewed as a serious Carson Wentz suitor. Taking it a step further, Sirius XM Radio’s Adam Caplan tweets the Panthers were not interested in the former Eagles passer.

Teddy Bridgewater, offered to the Lions in the Panthers’ Stafford proposal, may not be long for his role as Carolina’s QB1. But the Panthers sat out the Wentz process, joining the Patriots and Broncos — who were also in the mix for Stafford, though the QB did not want to be dealt to New England — in that regard. This led to the Eagles shipping Wentz to the Colts. Philadelphia’s initial ask of a Stafford-type haul for Wentz induced multiple teams to bow out of the pursuit early.

As for the Panthers’ next move, it might not be a trade for Sam Darnold. They do not appear especially high on the Jets quarterback, according to The Athletic, and a growing sense has emerged that Bridgewater may be back at the controls for the 2021 Panthers. Armed with the draft’s No. 2 overall pick, the Jets are mulling a Darnold decision. Multiple teams have inquired on Darnold thus far. Their choice could impact the Panthers, who may be out of position — barring a trade-up maneuver — to snag one of the top three QBs in this draft.

Returning OC Joe Brady remains confident in Bridgewater, per The Athletic. Bridgewater signed a three-year, $63MM deal last March. However, Tepper is said to be hoping the team finds an upgrade — even if Watson cannot be pried from the Texans.

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AFC East Rumors: Watson, Mariota, Allen

Add veteran NFL reporter Tyler Dunne of GoLongTD.com to the list of writers who have heard that Texans QB Deshaun Watson is not budging on his desire to be traded, and that he continues to ignore every call from Houston brass. Of course, Watson has a no-trade clause that he could use to help dictate where he goes — assuming the Texans give in and deal him, which they have insisted they are not going to do — and we recently heard that the 49ers and Broncos are on his destination list.

Dunne’s source indicates that the Dolphins — who have been considered one of the frontrunners for Watson since trade speculation started to swirl — and the Niners are Watson’s top two preferred clubs. In Dunne’s view, a trade to Miami makes too much sense to not happen, and he believes the ‘Fins and Texans could line up on a deal that sends Watson to South Beach in exchange for the No. 3 and No. 18 overall picks in this year’s draft along with Miami’s 2022 first-rounder.

Now for more rumors from the AFC East:

  • Recent reports have indicated that Raiders QB Marcus Mariota is generating legitimate trade interest, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com believes the Patriots could be in the mix. New England obviously needs a quarterback, and Mariota is attached to a reasonable $10.6MM salary for 2021 and would not cost much to acquire in terms of draft capital. Although he could demand a raise if he is being acquired to serve as a starter, his current salary would not preclude the Pats from continuing to explore other options, like Jimmy Garoppolo — if the the 49ers land a different QB and release Garoppolo — or a collegiate passer.
  • Reiss does not expect the Patriots to make a deal with the division-rival Jets for Gang Green QB Sam Darnold, though what the Jets do with Darnold could certainly have a major impact on New England (for instance, if New York trades Darnold to San Francisco, Garoppolo could become available).
  • The Jets have among the most cap space in the league at just shy of $70MM, and they can easily create even more flexibility, thereby giving them a huge advantage in what could be a buyer’s market given the decreased salary cap. Connor Hughes of The Athletic believes New York will release DE Henry Anderson, which jibes with a report from December. That move will save the club $8.2MM in cap space, and Hughes suggests that guards Greg Van Roten and Alex Lewis might be goners as well (their releases would save $3.4MM and $5.1MM, respectively).
  • Meanwhile the Jets don’t have too many of their own free agents that must be retained. Hughes expects safety Marcus Maye to be re-signed, and he also says OL Pat Elflein — who played well in 2020 after being claimed off waivers from the Vikings — is a logical candidate to return, especially if the team moves on from Van Roten and/or Lewis.
  • Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News does not foresee the Bills laying out major free agent dollars this offseason. Instead, he expects the club to use the majority of its cash on an extension for QB Josh Allen, which means that the Bills will likely allow LB Matt Milano to test the open market — contrary to GM Brandon Beane‘s assertion that a franchise tag could be in play — and will not be in the running for a top pass rusher like Shaquil Barrett or Bud Dupree.

Multiple Teams Have Inquired On Sam Darnold

Jets quarterback Sam Darnold has been rumored as a trade candidate for some time now, and it sounds like the lines of communication between Gang Green and the rest of the league are officially open. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, multiple teams have reached out to the Jets to discuss a trade for Darnold, who could be one of a number of high-profile passers to be dealt this offseason.

Schefter goes on to say that the Jets have entertained the discussions, though they are still undecided on how they want to resolve their quarterback dilemma. Recent reports have indicated that the club, which is armed with the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft, will either trade that pick or will trade Darnold. So if the Jets do end up moving Darnold, that would seem to indicate that they are high enough on a collegiate passer like Justin Fields or Zach Wilson to use the second pick in the draft on one of them.

Alternatively, a Darnold trade could also mean that the Jets feel good about their chances of landing a veteran replacement. But while the team has been connected to Deshaun Watson, that situation is still rife with uncertainty. New York has the draft capital and the cap space to pull off a Watson trade, but it’s no sure thing that the Texans will actually deal their star signal-caller.

Schefter confirms that all options are on the table for GM Joe Douglas, whose decision will have wide-reaching ramifications on the Jets’ fortunes and on Douglas’ own career. It’s unclear which teams have contacted Douglas to talk about Darnold, but it stands to reason that at least some of the clubs that were in on the Matthew Stafford sweepstakes — Washington, the Colts, and the Panthers, to name a few — might also be interested in Darnold.

Right now, it looks like the Eagles will trade Carson Wentz in the near future. After that, Darnold could be the next QB domino to fall, though the return for him is unlikely to include a first-round pick like the Stafford trade and the expected Wentz swap.

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Deshaun Watson Eyeing Jets Over Dolphins?

As the Texans progress on their slow-moving head coaching search, Deshaun Watson‘s discontent with the franchise appears to remain. The quarterback is eyeing destinations for a potential trade out of Houston.

The Texans have received calls on Watson, whose unhappiness surfaced more than two weeks ago, but have not budged yet. However, multiple AFC East teams look to be in play for the quarterback whose contract contains a no-trade clause. Watson is interested in playing for the Dolphins or Jets, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports, but at this point would prefer a Jets deal.

Watson is believed to have told people this week he would rank the Jets over the Dolphins among destinations, due largely to the latter’s Robert Saleh hire. Watson wanted the Texans to include the former 49ers DC in their coach search, per Salguero. The Texans did not interview Saleh.

Both teams make sense as prospective Watson suitors. Each has two first-round picks this year, with both teams holding top-three selections. Both teams have former top-five QBs on the roster already, but Saleh stopped short of committing to Sam Darnold for 2021. Dolphins GM Chris Grier did name Tua Tagovailoa the team’s 2021 starter. This is not the first time the Dolphins have surfaced in prospective Watson trade talks, however. Tagovailoa would likely be a Texans target if the teams discussed Watson.

The Jets and Dolphins reside on the low end as far as skill-position talent goes, joining the Texans in that sector. Each team has a need at wide receiver. As of now, the Jets far outflank the Dolphins in cap space ahead of what could be a robust receiver market. Gang Green is projected to hold more than $60MM in cap room; Miami is projected to possess just more than $20MM.

It is believed Watson could pry three first-round picks in a trade, though a top-three pick headlining the package could change that equation. As of now, the Texans view Watson as their cornerstone player. Both Cal McNair and Nick Caserio have pledged the 25-year-old Pro Bowler will be back in Houston next season. For now, however, Watson remains a disgruntled employee. Considering the rare trade value he possesses, speculation on destinations will continue.

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AFC East Notes: Saleh, Darnold, Patriots, Bills

Robert Saleh signed his contract with the Jets today, making him the 20th head coach in franchise history. While speaking to the media, the former 49ers defensive coordinator indicated that he’d be looking for specific types of players as he helps general manager Joe Douglas fill out the roster.

“There are no shortcuts to success, and I am committed to working with Joe to build this team the right way: with talented players that play fast and smart, and a staff that supports and helps develop them through it all,” Saleh said (via the team website).

Douglas, who led the coaching search alongside included team president Hymie Elhai, noted that Saleh believes in many of the same principals that the executive brought with him from Philadelphia when he joined the Jets in 2019.

“We spoke to some tremendous coaches, but Rob is the right partner and leader for us,” Douglas said. “His vision for this team aligns with what we have been working to establish here the last two years.”

The 41-year-old Saleh was an early favorite for the job based on the strength of his SF defense. In 2020, the Niners finished fifth in total yards, seventh in rushing yards, and fourth in passing yards allowed. In 2019, Saleh’s D surrendered just 169.2 passing yards per contest — the lowest average since Rex Ryan‘s 2009 Jets D.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the AFC East…

  • Saleh and new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur have spent time evaluating Sam Darnold‘s tape, and the coaches believe the Jets quarterback has “untapped potential,” per ESPN’s Rich Cimini. The former third-overall pick had a rough season in 2020, leading some to wonder whether the new staff would prefer to take a quarterback with the second-overall pick.
  • The eight Patriots players who opted out of the 2020 season were asked to return for year-end physicals last week, writes ESPN’s Mike Reiss. Wideout Marqise Lee and running back Brandon Bolden have both said they plan to play in 2021, and Reiss opines that safety Patrick Chung, tight end Matt LaCosse, and fullback Danny Vitale will also return. However, the writer is much less certain that offensive tackle Marcus Cannon and linebacker Dont’a Hightower will be back in New England.
  • While Dave Ziegler was always an underdog in the Broncos GM search, he parlayed that experience into a “multiyear contract and pay bump as Nick Caserio‘s successor” in New England, writes Reiss. The Patriots assistant director of player personnel eventually withdrew his name from the search in Denver, and Reiss writes that this is a “reflection of the decisiveness that has earned him a measure of respect in the Patriots’ offices over the past eight year.”
  • Bills running back Zack Moss underwent minor surgery on his ankle this morning, tweets ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The 23-year-old is expected to make a full recovery from the “tight rope procedure,” and he should be ready to go for offseason workouts. The third-rounder finished his rookie campaign having compiled 576 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns.