What if trading for Sam Darnold was as easy as swapping first-round picks?
The Darnold era could come to an end in New York this offseason as the Jets continue to receive calls from other teams regarding their 23-year-old quarterback. No guarantees they'll move him, but with a chance to start over at the position with the No. 2 pick, the Jets can afford to part ways with the former first-rounder if the price is right.
One team that may still be in the market for a quarterback this offseason is the 49ers. Should San Francisco decide to move on from Jimmy Garoppolo, and with many of the top quarterbacks expected to be off the board by the time they pick at No. 12, Darnold is a young alternative that has the potential to thrive in a different uniform.
There's a few moving parts to this hypothetical trade, so bear with us, but here's a look at a possible deal for Darnold.
San Francisco 49ers receive:
Sam Darnold, No. 23 overall pick
New York Jets receive:
No. 12 overall pick
The first hurdle to jump through here is Darnold's value. At least five teams have reportedly inquired with the Jets about the quarterback's availability, but after seeing Carson Wentz get traded for a third-round pick and a conditional second-rounder, it's hard to see other teams offering up a first-rounder for Darnold straight up.
That being said, it's been reported this offseason that Darnold is worth as much as a late first-round pick, even if he's struggled to produce consistently at this level.
So, let's say offers to the Jets aren't as high as New York hoped, but they're still planning to take Zach Wilson or another rookie quarterback at No. 2. This trade would give the Jets a chance to move up 11 slots with the pick acquired from Seattle while San Francisco gets a new quarterback and doesn't forfeit their first-round selection.
At this point you might be wondering, why on earth would the 49ers be willing to move down in the first round just at a chance to get Sam Darnold? Well, apparently head coach Kyle Shanahan is "very high" on the quarterback.
Again, Darnold is still young enough that he can turn his career into something special with the right coaching staff guiding him. Darnold isn't Deshaun Watson by any means, but if San Francisco truly doesn't think they'll win a championship with Garoppolo, Darnold is a more affordable option at the position. Think of how many picks the 49ers would have to give up to even have a chance at getting Watson anyway.
It's also worth noting—and you may have thought of this already—that Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur were working in the 49ers organization only a few months ago. You have to figure that would make negotiations between these two clubs go smoothly. Besides, those two coaches have been breaking down Sam Darnold film for the last several weeks since taking over in their new roles with the Jets. Those two can articulate to their former colleagues why Darnold would be a better fit in their system as the New York attempts to move forward with a new quarterback.
Darnold also played one of his best games last year against the 49ers, giving them an in-person look at his untapped potential. Yes, it was back in Week 2—so maybe the rest of the season's struggles after that point wipe this promise away for San Francisco—but Darnold threw for 179 yards and added a touchdown with no turnovers. His completion percentage (65.63) and rating (90.5) in that game were both the third-best of the entire season for the quarterback.
When it comes down to it, all of this is contingent upon whether or not the Jets are willing to trade Darnold and if the 49ers really do want to take a chance on him. Another team like the Chicago Bears or Washington Football Team could swoop in and blow the Jets away with a different offer for Darnold that they would be silly to pass up on.
After all, San Francisco picks again in the second round 43rd overall, but doesn't have a third-round pick in this spring's draft.
If you can check both of those two boxes, however, this deal definitely has some potential. At the very least, don't be surprised if these teams chat about a possible trade over the next few weeks leading up to the draft.
MORE ON SAM DARNOLD:
- Sam Darnold to the Bears? NFL Insider Predicts Chicago Will Trade For New York's Quarterback
- Sam Darnold Trade Proposal: Does Washington Offer Enough to New York?
- Report: Jets Likely Won't Trade Second Overall Pick