Jets matchup has intrigue with Sam Darnold's future uncertain, Patriots in need

Phil Perry
·4 min read

Perry: Should the Patriots try to buy low on Sam Darnold? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

We can talk about the matchup between the Jets and the Patriots. We can talk about how the Jets run defense is actually looking fairly well-equipped to slow down the rushing attack taking the field for Bill Belichick on Monday night.

But instead, for now, let's talk about the thaw.

Did you know that since the start of last season the Patriots and Jets have traded twice? One sent Demaryius Thomas to Jersey. The other sent a third-round pick (which was used to draft tight end Dalton Keene) to Foxboro in exchange for two fourths and a sixth.

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Before those, the Patriots and Jets hadn't executed a deal since Belichick was traded to New England for a first-rounder back in 2000.

Is this, with Joe Douglas now sitting in the general manager's chair for the Jets, a sign that there's peace in the AFC East? Unlikely.

But there's a willing back-and-forth. And that thaw might be relevant in the spring when the Jets are looking like they'll be in line to draft Trevor Lawrence and trade away current starter Sam Darnold.

The Jets won't want to bail out what they may view as a sinking Patriots ship. Sure. But what if they view Darnold as an anchor? By just about every measure, he's one of the worst quarterbacks in football.

Among 28 qualifying quarterbacks this season -- not including a handful of starters with low attempt numbers like Cam Newton and Drew Lock -- he's last in yards per attempt by more than a full half-yard (5.5), last in quarterback rating (65.9), and he's thrown half as many touchdowns (3) as he has picks (6).

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Want the advanced numbers? They're just as ugly. He's last in success rate (40.8 percent), completion percentage over expected (-4.7) and expected points added per play (-0.129). His adjusted completion percentage (70.1), per Pro Football Focus, is last. So too is his quarterback rating when kept clean (68.7).

So why might the Patriots be interested?

They need options. And their schedule the rest of the way in 2020 could help them crawl toward the middle of the pack in the draft order, which would then likely take them out of the running for other top-tier passers like Ohio State's Justin Fields or North Dakota State's Trey Lance.

And who really knows if Darnold is as hopeless as his numbers would suggest?

Sam I Am

Sam Darnold's QB rating since entering the NFL in 2018 -- the third-lowest in that time (min. 10 GP).

78.3

Variation

Single

He's taking his cues from head coach Adam Gase, who appears to have whatever would be the opposite of the Midas Touch. DeVante Parker, Jarvis Landry, Damien Williams, Mike Gesicki ... they've all been better off since untethering from Gase.

Most relevant to this discussion is that quarterback Ryan Tannehill -- one of the least-efficient quarterbacks in football in 2018 by some measures -- broke up with Gase and suddenly became one of the most prolific passers in the game in the Titans scheme.

Asking Darnold to have a similar turnaround would be asking a lot. And the Patriots need draft picks. But for a team that has no long-term plan at the game's most important position, might trading a mid-round pick -- say a third -- be worth the risk?

The Dolphins gave up a second-rounder to pry Josh Rosen from the Cardinals when Arizona was facing the situation the Jets are about to face in a few months sitting at the top of the draft with a first-round quarterback already on the roster. Rosen had less starting experience than Darnold did, and perhaps more perceived upside at the time. That didn't work out for the Dolphins, but it doesn't guarantee it won't work for Darnold's next team.

Plus, the Patriots are looking like they'll have an extra third in the 2021 draft via the compensatory-pick formula after losing Tom Brady to the Bucs in free agency.

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At that cost, if that's feasible, Darnold doesn't necessarily have to be labeled The Guy to replace Brady. He'd simply be an option in what could be a multi-pronged approach from the Patriots to fill the job. Dealing away a third wouldn't prevent the Patriots from using another pick at the position. It wouldn't prevent them from signing a free-agent bridge passer.

Buying low on Darnold makes sense, if the Jets would be willing to sell, and he'll have a chance to audition for a potential future employer in person on Monday night.