Panthers GM Scott Fitterer talks trading for Jets' Sam Darnold: 'It’s definitely worth the gamble'

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Coby Green
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New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold throws ball vs New England Patriots
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold throws ball vs New England Patriots

Carolina Panthers GM Scott Fitterer held a news conference on Monday after the announcement of the Jets' trade of Sam Darnold to Carolina, and broke down his reasoning for making the deal.

“Sam is a guy that, going back to when he was coming out of USC, he was a guy I really liked," Fitterer said. "Liked the competitor, liked the toughness, the ability to move in the pocket, he can make big plays downfield with his arm. All those things really stood out about him. I think in this offense with (offensive coordinator) Joe Brady, with (head coach) Matt Rhule, with the weapons we have around him, that he can take that next step with us.

“I was really excited to add someone of Sam’s caliber to our team."

With the Panthers sitting at No. 8 in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft, they didn't have much to work with in terms of which quarterbacks could fall to them -- and if they'd even want to take who's available to them there.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are set on Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, the Jets seemed likely to select BYU's Zach Wilson, and the San Francisco 49ers wouldn't have traded up nine spots to No. 3 to not draft a quarterback.

The Jets needed to offload Darnold somewhere, so Carolina made the move they thought would best complement their offense.

"I think [Darnold] moves well in the pocket. He’s not a runner, but he’s person that can slide in the pocket. He sees the field. He can make throws at all the levels," Fitterer said. "In our offense, with Joe Brady, with Christian (McCaffrey), with DJ (Moore), with Robby (Anderson), I really like what he can bring to us and his ability to push the ball down field. All those things are really exciting."

Most importantly, Fitterer didn't dwell or put any focus into Darnold's obvious faults in New York and the reasons why the Jets thought it was time to get rid of their 23-year-old quarterback after just three seasons.

“I’m more focused on Sam in our offense and what we can do with him here," he said. "I like the skillset. He’s only 23 years old. A lot of these quarterbacks don’t don’t mature and hit their prime until 24, 25, 26. If this is a quarterback we can hit on at this price, it’s definitely worth the gamble.”