How influx of potentially available NFL quarterbacks could impact Sam Darnold's trade value

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Ralph Vacchiano
·6 min read
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Sam Darnold vs. Rams
Sam Darnold vs. Rams

If the Jets decide to move on from Sam Darnold, either for a rookie or Deshaun Watson, they’re obviously going to have to trade him. And it will help that there should be plenty of teams in the market for a quarterback this offseason.

The problem is, there could be plenty of quarterbacks available, too.

In what could be an unprecedented offseason for quarterback movement, there’s a chance that more than half of the NFL’s 32 teams could have a new franchise quarterback by the time the 2021 season begins. Some of the changes will be due to trade requests, and some will be the result of organizational uncertainty or dysfunction, and some will just be about the opportunity to improve.

But the market could be flooded, which could make things difficult for teams like the Jets if they try to sell a quarterback who could be viewed as damaged goods. How will Darnold look on a market next to Watson or Matt Stafford, or maybe even Dak Prescott or Aaron Rodgers, too. All of them probably won’t be available, but none of their futures are locked in yet.

And all of them would be viewed as better options than Darnold, a 23-year-old who has struggled through his first three seasons in the NFL. Some teams might prefer to trade up in the draft for Ohio State’s Justin Fields or BYU’s Zach Wilson, too. They are at least financially preferable to Darnold, who’ll be entering the final year of his contract with a decision looming about his fifth-year option for 2022 (and about $25 million) this May.

What that all means for the Jets is this: If they decide to move on from Darnold, they might not be able to trade him for as much as they hoped. Yes they could put him in a package for Watson, but a stand-alone deal could be much more difficult to find. The assumption around the NFL was the Jets could get at least what the Cardinals got from Miami for Josh Rosen in 2019 – a second-round pick.

But with so many possible options on the market, it might be tough to see them getting any more than that.

Here’s a look at some of the potentially available options this offseason for quarterback-needy teams:

Sam Darnold

He’s still well-regarded for his talent, and there’s a general feeling that his first three years were ruined by poor coaching and a bad team around him. But three years of struggles and injuries won’t be easily dismissed, especially with a potentially big payday looming.

Deshaun Watson

He’s the big fish in this pool at age 25 with three Pro Bowls already and signed through 2025 with a possible out in his deal after 2023. His cap hits the next five years average about $28 million, but the way quarterback prices rise that’ll look cheap soon enough. If the Texans deal him – still an “if” – he’s likely to cost three first-round picks, plus. The Jets are one of a very few teams with the draft capital to pull that off.

Matthew Stafford

He’s only 33, has a rocket arm and loads of talent, and like Darnold has been dragged down by poor coaching and bad teams. Since he’s due $53 million over the next two years he’s more appealing to a ready-to-win team like the Colts or 49ers, and he might only cost one first-round pick in a package. He could also be a good bridge for teams like Washington and Carolina. And don’t rule out the Cowboys for the Dallas native since they haven’t signed Dak Prescott yet.

Dak Prescott

Crazy, right? But the Cowboys couldn’t sign him last offseason and had to use a $31 million franchise tag on him instead. Now, with decreased revenues and a smaller cap due to the pandemic, signing him could be tougher. And while they could franchise him again, that number will go up to almost $38 million. The Cowboys want him back, but there’s reportedly been no actual negotiations. And now Jerry Jones could have other options.

Aaron Rodgers

Crazier, right? Probably too crazy. It’s unthinkable that he’ll get his third NFL MVP award and a trade to a new team in the same offseason, especially since he’d leave $31.556 million in dead money on the Packers’ books. Then again, the Packers didn’t trade up in the first round last year to take quarterback Jordan Love for nothing. Rodgers called his future in Green Bay “uncertain” on Sunday, though on Tuesday he clarified “I don’t think there’s any reason that I wouldn’t be back.” Packers CEO Mark Murphy said it clearer: “There’s no way in heck Aaron is not going to be on the Packers. We’re not idiots.” That’s probably true.

Jimmy Garoppolo

Every time a quarterback is mentioned, the 49ers are suspected of being interested. They don’t have a lot invested in their injury-prone starter since they only traded a second-round pick for him in 2018 and his contract makes it easy to cut him or trade him now. If the 49ers do land a new quarterback, he could quickly return to New England.

Cam Newton

He didn’t draw much interest around the NFL before signing a one-year deal with the Patriots last offseason. It looks like both sides want to move on, but the market won’t be too robust. Newton is 31 and didn’t have a great season in New England, though he did rush for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns. He once led a team to the Super Bowl and that counts for a lot. But he might end up as a backup or a short-term starter in front of a rookie.

Carson Wentz

It looks like the Eagles’ surprise choice of Nick Sirianni as their new head coach was an indication that Wentz will stay in Philly. But Jalen Hurts’ presence still looms large. Wentz’s performance and contract probably make him untradeable right now. There are certainly better options available for everyone.

Jared Goff

Just two years removed from leading the Rams on a wild offensive ride all the way to the Super Bowl, the 26-year-old is only “the quarterback right now”, as coach Sean McVay said after the season. GM Les Snead added on Tuesday that Goff “is a Ram at this moment.” There’s also a report that the two need “marriage counseling.” None of that bodes well for Goff’s chances of staying in L.A.