National Football League

Sam Darnold set for redo after New York Jets trade QB to Carolina Panthers

April 6

The No. 3 overall pick in 2018's NFL Draft is getting a fresh start.

After three seasons with the New York Jets, Sam Darnold is headed to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a 2021 sixth-round pick and a second-round pick and fourth-round pick in 2022.

For the 23-year-old Darnold, the trade serves as a chance to hit the reset button on a career that nosedived in 2020.

The former USC quarterback started 13 games in his rookie season, putting up a 4-9 record and passing for 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

He improved upon those numbers the following season, going 7-6 in 13 starts, with 19 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. He also completed 61.9% of his passes for 3,024 yards, posting a passer rating of 84.3.

Then Darnold regressed mightily this past season, putting up a 2-10 record in 12 starts. His completion percentage dropped to 59.3%, and he threw nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Meanwhile, his passer rating of 72.7 was the lowest of his career, as was his passing yards total of 2,208.

Monday's trade all but sealed the thinking that the Jets will select a quarterback in the upcoming draft. As for Darnold and the Panthers, Colin Cowherd thinks it's a massive opportunity for the young QB.

"In life, nobody thinks your first job is your last job. ... But in the NFL at quarterback, if your first job doesn't go well, like Sam Darnold with the Jets, you often get dismissed. Ignored. Labeled. And you're 23. That's how old Sam Darnold is."

There's plenty for Darnold to like about this move.

For one, he'll have a healthy Christian McCaffrey joining him behind the line of scrimmage.

The 2019 league MVP missed the bulk of 2020 due to a couple of injuries but should be back to full strength for the upcoming season. During his MVP campaign, the star running back racked up 2,392 yards from scrimmage on 403 touches, both of which led the league. 

On the outside, Darnold will have a pair of 1000⁠-plus-yard pass-catchers in Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore to work with.

Those offensive weapons will be a breath of fresh air for Darnold, in Shannon Sharpe's opinion. On Tuesday's "Undisputed," the Pro Football Hall of Famer explained why he thinks Darnold is destined for improvement in Carolina.

"Sam Darnold has never had an offensive player make a Pro Bowl in his three years. ... and [now] he has D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson ... and he has Christian McCaffrey in his backfield. ... I believe you'll see a better Sam Darnold."

Hear what Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe have to say about Sam Darnold's future with the Carolina Panthers.

Then there's Matt Rhule, under whom Panthers GM Scott Fitterer believes Darnold can "take that next step."

In his first season at the helm of the Panthers, Rhule coached the team to a 5-11 record. Nevertheless, he's regarded as one of the bright young coaches around the league, as is Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady.  

Dan Orlovsky considers the coaching situation an ideal match for Darnold.

Of course, there's still last year's starting quarterback to consider. Teddy Bridgewater signed a three-year, $63 million contract with the Panthers in March 2020 but mustered a 4-11 record in 15 starts during his first season in Carolina.

The 28-year-old Bridgewater could soon be on the move. 

If the Panthers find a suitable arrangement for Bridgewater, it'd clear the decks for Darnold to take up the mantle at a franchise for the second time in his young career.

As Cowherd pointed out, redos for NFL QBs come few and far between.

The stage is set for Darnold in Carolina. Now it'll be up to him to perform.

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