Sam Darnold was long rumored to be on the quarterback trade market when the New York Jets finished the 2020 NFL season with the second-worst record in the league.
It stood to reason that the Jets would want to replace their underperforming starter in a deep quarterback class. They would have their pick of the non-Trevor Lawrence candidates, so all it would take to convince them to draft a quarterback would be to fall in love with one of the four other first-round quarterback prospects.
That did end up happening, and it appears that BYU’s Zach Wilson is the Jets’ man of choice. As a result, they shipped Darnold to the Carolina Panthers for three draft picks, including a 2022 second-round pick.
That said, the Panthers weren’t the only team rumored to be in the Darnold sweepstakes. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Washington Football Team and San Francisco 49ers each took a “hard look” at Darnold before deciding to pass on the move.
Considering Sam Darnold was a sensible move by the Washington Football Team.
To be sure, Darnold has not looked good during his NFL career to date, but the fact of the matter is that he’s a 23-year-old quarterback that has played most of his career under Adam Gase, who has been one of the worst NFL head coaches over the last five years.
Routinely, offensive players that played under Gase have thrived elsewhere. Ryan Tannehill went from a borderline starter to an above-average player with the Tennessee Titans. DeVante Parker found his most success once Gase left the Miami Dolphins. Even Kalen Ballage looked more competent with the Los Angeles Chargers than he did with the Dolphins.
Darnold still has immense upside and while taking a chance on him would have been a calculated risk, it makes sense that Washington at least considered doing so.
Washington isn’t going to be in range for a top-five quarterback in this year’s draft unless they make a drastic trade up. Darnold’s potential is likely larger than the other non-first-round quarterbacks Washington could consider, so at least checking in on the cost to acquire him was smart.
So too was the decision to pass on the price. Washington can afford to be patient at the quarterback spot thanks to the presence of Ryan Fitzpatrick and two young players, Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke, that looked good in limited action last year. They still will probably target a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft, but they didn’t have to make a move to get Darnold if they didn’t like the cost of doing so.
In short, teams that have a need at the quarterback will always explore all available options to them to make sure they have a chance to land an upgrade. Washington was doing that by looking at Darnold. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.