“I want to publicly acknowledge the commitment, dedication, and professionalism Sam displayed while with the Jets,” General Manager Joe Douglas said in a statement released by the team. “He is a tough-minded, talented football player whose NFL story has not been written yet. While all these things are true, this move is in the short- and long-term best interests for both this team and him. We thank Sam for all of his work on behalf of this organization and wish him well as he continues his career.”
The Jets could have retained Darnold and traded the No. 2 pick for significant draft capital to rebuild around him. Instead, they appear committed to taking Wilson after the Jacksonville Jaguars presumably use the top selection on Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Darnold was supposed to be the franchise cornerstone when the Jets seemed to catch a major break on draft night in 2018. The New York Giants chose tailback Saquon Barkley with the second pick, leaving Darnold for the Jets at No. 3. Many analysts had considered Darnold the top quarterback in the draft, but the Cleveland Browns opted for Baker Mayfield first and the Giants waited a year before addressing their quarterback situation by drafting Daniel Jones in 2019.
But it didn’t work out as Darnold and the Jets envisioned, although it’s debatable where the blame falls. Darnold had pitiable teams around him and failed to develop under the coaching of Adam Gase. He had 45 touchdown passes, 39 interceptions and an unsightly passer rating of 78.6 in his three seasons in New York. The Jets fired Gase following the 2020 season and, after hiring San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to replace him, are poised to entrust their future to Wilson.
The Panthers will hope Darnold’s biggest problem in New York was his franchise. Carolina is making another move at quarterback a year after it signed Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year, $63 million contract to replace Cam Newton, the 2015 league MVP whom it released last offseason.
Bridgewater wasn’t the answer, throwing 11 interceptions to go with 15 touchdown passes as the Panthers went 5-11 in their first season with Matt Rhule as coach and Joe Brady as offensive coordinator.
There had been speculation this offseason that Panthers owner David Tepper was intent on trading for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. But the Texans have shown no willingness to accommodate Watson’s trade request, and he’s under criminal investigation and facing civil lawsuits by women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. Watson and his attorney, Rusty Hardin, have denied the allegations.