As much as it seemed like the Jets-Panthers trade for Sam Darnold came out of nowhere on Monday, the two teams have reportedly been "chipping away" at negotiations for several months.
Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer mentioned in his latest MAQB that Carolina quickly emerged as the top suitor for Darnold, first reaching out to the Jets about a possible trade in mid-February.
That introduction was fresh off Carolina missing out on Matthew Stafford. Jets general manager Joe Douglas remained "even keeled" throughout the process—which is part of the reason why it took this long for a deal to be completed—but everything "heated up in the last couple weeks," per Breer.
Here's more from Breer on the negotiations and how this trade came to be:
By the start of last week, the Panthers had emerged as the strongest suitor for Darnold. Last Monday night, the teams talked again, with both arriving in Columbus for Ohio State’s pro day. And at the pro day, on Tuesday, Douglas finally got the chance to go face-to-face with his Carolina counterpart, Scott Fitterer, and Panthers coach Matt Rhule. Talks there were positive enough for the sides to continue in earnest in the days to follow.
The Jets were said to have sought a return besting what the Cardinals got for Josh Rosen in 2019—looking for a second-rounder and a mid-round pick or player. But my understanding is a lot of different concepts were discussed, including one that would’ve sent the 23rd pick and Darnold to Carolina for the eighth pick (the Panthers weren’t going for that).
In the end, the compromise wound up being the Jets’ desired return, but in 2022 picks, rather than 2021, with a ’21 sixth-rounder tacked on. So now, Douglas has five picks in the first three rounds this year and four in the first two rounds next year with which to build. And this, of course, also locks in the certainty that quarterbacks will go 1-2-3 on April 29, with Atlanta now in position to take the fourth one or get a ransom for their pick.
In addition to Breer's reporting, Connor Hughes of The Athletic revealed that the Jets felt the need to get this deal done before the draft because they saw a lot of “downside” in waiting. Carolina could have gone in another direction, or used their first-rounder (the No. 8 pick) to solve their quarterback situation.
Rich Cimini of ESPN added that the Jets did consider the idea of holding onto Darnold while also drafting a new quarterback, but preferred a "fresh start" for all parties involved.
This just confirms the belief that New York is happy with their options at No. 2 and comfortable moving forward with a new youngster under center.
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