In 2018 USC quarterback Sam Darnold was widely considered the consensus top pick in the NFL draft. Now four years later he has already been traded once by the team that drafted him (New York Jets) and there are rumors he could be on the move again.
The precipice for the latest trade chatter is thanks to the acquisition of Baker Mayfield in a deal this week with the Cleveland Browns. With the former Oklahoma Sooner now in the fold, what does that mean for the future of Darnold?
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Not so Fast My Friends
With the addition of Mayfield, the Panthers now have five quarterbacks on their roster heading into training camp:
- PJ Walker
- Davis Cheek
- Matt Corral
There has been some speculation on social media that perhaps Carolina could turn around and trade Darnold off to someone else after the Mayfield deal.
However, it doesn’t appear that is going to be the case.
According to Pro Football Talk, “Carolina has no intention of trading Darnold after adding Mayfield.”
Regardless of what the Panthers decide to do with him, they are still on the hook for his fully guaranteed $18.8 million salary for the 2022 season.
Since you have to pay him anyway, whether he plays for you or not, you might as well keep him on the roster.
A Final Chance
This leads us to the upcoming training camp battle between the No. 1 and No. 3 overall picks in the 2018 NFL draft.
After trading for Mayfield and considering his proven past production, most have assumed he will be the starting quarterback come Week 1.
However, not everyone feels that way.
Former NFL player and current analyst Bucky Brooks joined The Herd with Colin Cowherd to explain why it isn’t a sure thing that Mayfield is the guy:
“Darnold is a bigger, stronger, faster prospect [compared to Baker]. Mayfield by all accounts has played better in the league, but Baker has also had a better supporting cast. A great offensive line, two Pro Bowl running backs, and two Pro Bowl wide receivers and he was still a bottom-third quarterback. Darnold has never been afforded that opportunity.”
This is Darnold’s last chance to prove he is a starting quarterback in the NFL. If he loses this quarterback competition he will be relegated to a backup role exclusively moving forward.
Darnold will then have to latch on with another NFL franchise in free agency next year as a backup quarterback and hope for an injury to seize another starting gig in the future.
From the Jets’ perspective, their ties to Darnold are all but finished. All of the draft picks that were involved in that deal from last April have been selected and it turns into a waiting game to see what they ultimately become.
For now, the focus shifts back to Zach Wilson who will be entering his second training camp this fall with hopes of many more down the line.