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On Monday, the Sam Darnold era for the New York Jets came to an end after three mediocre seasons. The Jets dealt their 24-year-old quarterback to the Carolina Panthers in one of the more surprising moves of the offseason. Even before the trade, all signs pointed toward the Jets drafting BYU standout Zach Wilson. With the NFL draft less than a month away, this move practically ends all suspense.

The New York Jets trade Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers

Former New York Jets QB Sam Darnold
Quarterback Sam Darnold pictured in what turned out to be his final game with the New York Jets. The Jets traded him to the Carolina Panthers on Monday. | Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images

Sam Darnold’s three-year run in the Meadowlands is over. The Jets have traded him to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2021 NFL draft, along with second and fourth-round picks in the 2022 draft. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport first broke the story Monday afternoon.

Darnold came to the Jets with high hopes of turning the franchise’s fortunes around. New York selected him with the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft. Before then, he put up gaudy numbers at USC, throwing for over 4,000 yards and 26 touchdowns in his sophomore season. By the time he arrived in the pros, Darnold was the youngest opening-day starting quarterback since the AFL-NFL merger – 21 years, two months, and five days.

Unfortunately for the Jets, Darnold never found stable footing. While he showed flashes of brilliance at times, his development seemed to stall after year two, due in part to the questionable coaching of Adam Gase. Frequent injuries and illness didn’t help, and he has yet to play a full season. His play regressed in 2020, as his interceptions outnumbered his touchdowns 11-9.

Zach Wilson is guaranteed to come to the New York Jets

After the Sam Darnold trade, the only quarterbacks on the New York Jets’ roster are James Morgan and Mike White, neither of whom have played a single game. The Jets’ next quarterback will more than likely come in April’s NFL draft. While this year’s class will provide no end of choices, all indications are that BYU standout Zach Wilson will be that quarterback.

Last season, Wilson completed nearly 75% of his passes for 3,692 yards, 33 touchdowns, and only three interceptions. At his pro day on March 26, he wowed scouts from across the NFL with his accuracy and arm strength. Most importantly, he showed great skill in throwing on the run, something vital to success in the modern NFL offense.

Since the Jacksonville Jaguars will most likely take Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick, the Jets have first priority on Wilson. It would almost be impossible to miss on this one. Then again, this is the same organization that once passed up the great Warren Sapp for tight end Kyle Brady. If any team could miss this open goal, it’s the New York Jets.

Sam Darnold enters an awkward situation in Carolina


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The situation for Darnold, on the other hand, is not as certain.

One one hand, he’ll get a fresh start far away from the media hotbed of New York (well, technically New Jersey, but still…). He’ll have a chance to rebuild his career under the guidance of Matt Rhule. Best of all, he’ll have weapons the likes of which he never had with the Jets — weapons such as Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore.

On the other hand, there’s no guarantee he’ll ever start a game. His new team already has a capable quarterback in the form of Teddy Bridgewater. Assuming the Panthers decide to hold a competition, Darnold will have to fight hard for the starting job in 2021.

Statistics courtesy of Sports-Reference.