Jets Trade Sam Darnold to Carolina Ahead of N.F.L. Draft

The Jets traded starter Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers on Monday, the clearest sign yet that they will be taking a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 N.F.L. draft. In return, the Jets will receive a sixth-round pick in this year’s draft and second- and fourth-rounders in 2022, adding to the stockpile of draft capital amassed by General Manager Joe Douglas as he attempts to rebuild a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2010 season.

“I want to publicly acknowledge the commitment, dedication, and professionalism Sam displayed while with the Jets. He is a tough-minded, talented football player whose N.F.L. story has not been written yet,” Douglas said in a statement. “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.”

For decades, the Jets have tried and failed to identify and develop a starter at quarterback, and after drafting Darnold third over all in 2018 they thought they had, finally, found a solution. Instead, Darnold struggled across his three seasons, undermined by injuries, poor supporting talent and a coaching staff that could not help him evolve into even an average N.F.L. starter.

With Darnold gone, the Jets will almost certainly draft his successor late this month. Trevor Lawrence of Clemson is expected to be taken with the first pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars, but Zach Wilson of Brigham Young and Justin Fields of Ohio State are also considered strong quarterback prospects.

The Panthers, ready to move on from the starter Teddy Bridgewater, have been searching this off-season for an upgrade at the position. With the status of one potential option, Deshaun Watson, in doubt because of allegations of assault and sexual misconduct leveled at him, the Panthers opted for Darnold, who is 23. In Carolina, Darnold will get a chance to work with a sharp offensive coordinator, Joe Brady, and a far better offensive line and cast of skill-position players than he did with the Jets.

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