On Monday, April 5th, 2021, New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas completed a career-defining trade with the Carolina Panthers. The Jets sent starting quarterback Sam Darnold to the Panthers in exchange for a sixth round pick in 2021 in addition to a second and fourth round pick in 2022.
In other words, the Jets just traded their starting quarterback of the past three seasons. So, now what? Here is where gang green’s quarterback situation stands as the 2021 NFL Draft is right around the corner…
New York Jets Quarterback Situation Following Sam Darnold Trade
A Bittersweet Goodbye
All off-season the talk has been what the future holds at quarterback for the Jets. Would the team proceed with Darnold? Do they draft a rookie? This has been a discussion that was heavily influenced by the fact Darnold has had horrible coaching and weapons, but still has the upside he once did when drafted third overall in 2018.
Ultimately, the Jets elected to move on. It was a decision that made sense for all sides. Darnold gets a fresh start in a very young and talented Carolina offense. Douglas gets more assets over the next two drafts to continue to build the team. Plus, the Jets avoid any controversy for when they select a rookie second overall.
However, that does not mean it was not sad to see Darnold go. He gave New York his all, despite it resulting in very little success. Unlike most big apple breakups, chances are fans will continue to root for Darnold as he heads to the NFC South.
Left on the Roster
With Darnold now gone, it becomes blatantly clear the position is far from settled. Currently, the Jets quarterback room is made up of James Morgan and Mike White. Douglas spoke highly of the pair during his press conference following the trade, yet neither has taken regular season snaps.
Taken in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft, Morgan is a 6-4 and 229-pound gunslinger from Florida International. Morgan has some very intriguing traits apart from his size, including a strong arm and good footwork. At the same time, he is far from being game-ready, as he never dressed for a game this past season.
As for White, the former Dallas Cowboys fifth round pick has never seen any game action either. He has been in-and-out of the Jets organization since September of 2019, whether on the practice squad or 53-man, but never dressed. Simply put, the Jets are in need of someone who simply has NFL game experience to mentor their inexperienced quarterbacks.
Veteran Options on the Market
Taking this into consideration, the team should be turning to free agency to add a veteran backup. Their backup this past season, Joe Flacco, has already departed for the Philadelphia Eagles, meaning the Jets will need to bring in someone new.
Right off of the bat, the Alex Smith story continuing in New York would be amazing. Yes, he won Comeback Player of the Year this past season after miraculously recovering from his horrific leg injury in 2018. But he also played well in his time back on the field. In six starts he went 5-1, throwing for 1,582 yards with a 66.7% completion rate. At this point in his career, Smith would be a phenomenal mentor to a young rookie quarterback.
Another intriguing choice would be Nick Mullens. On the younger side at 26-years-old, Mullens has 16 starts to his name, having thrown for 4,714 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 22 interceptions. Mullens is not a guy who brings year’s worth of NFL experience to the table. Rather, he brings years of alongside new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, who came from the San Francisco 49ers with head coach Robert Saleh.
Some other free agents the Jets could turn to include A.J. McCarron, Robert Griffin III, Matt Barkley, Blaine Gabbert, or even Geno Smith. While that last one would bring back some old, not-so-fond memories for Jets fans, the bottom line is the team needs a guy with pro-game snaps under his belt.
The Pick at Number Two
There is a reason the Jets decided to trade Darnold, and that reason is whoever is picked at second overall. During the press conference, Douglas mentioned how “It’s safe to say that if our pick was a little later, we wouldn’t be having this discussion right now. We’d fully be comfortable moving forward with Sam.” Therefore, whoever the target is at two is thought very highly of by the Jets, and will follow Trevor Lawrence in the draft.
Behind Lawrence, there are four quarterbacks expected to come off the board in round one of the draft. Ohio State’s Justin Fields has high upside with fantastic arm strength and accuracy, though is held back by his poor pocket awareness. Trey Lance of North Dakota State is extremely raw. Nonetheless, he has just as much potential as anyone in this class with his arm strength and ability to run. Then there is Mac Jones from Alabama, who is a precision passer who lives in the pocket and was a Heisman finalist in 2020.
Be that as it may, all signs point towards BYU’s Zach Wilson being Darnold’s replacement. During a breakout year in 2020, he threw for 3,692 yards, 33 touchdowns, and completed 73.5% of passes. His playmaking ability has him second to Lawrence by many regards in the class, and he has surely caught the attention of Douglas and the Jets. In response to Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young’s comments that “the Jets have committed to Zach [Wilson]” last week, Douglas mentioned how “Steve is plugged into BYU pretty well.”
Of course, that does not confirm the Jets plan at number two. Nevertheless, it certainly adds to the Wilson to New York hype train.
New York Jets fans, the Sam Darnold era has come to an unfortunate end. It may not have worked out, but hopefully, the trade brings both sides more success. Darnold goes to a promising situation in Carolina. Meanwhile, Douglas makes a career-defining decision in dealing Darnold and putting his faith in whichever rookie he picks at second overall. The peak of free agency may be over, but for the Jets, the off-season is only just beginning…
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