Sam Darnold isn't just getting a fresh start with a new team after being traded to Carolina. The quarterback is reuniting with one of his favorite targets.
During Darnold's first season with Gang Green in 2018, the quarterback established a special connection with wide receiver Robby Anderson.
Anderson led the Jets that year with 752 receiving yards on 50 catches (94 targets). The duo followed up their first year together with another impressive season in 2019, as Anderson had 779 yards through the air.
That offseason, however, Anderson's tenure with the Jets came to an end. The wideout walked in free agency, signing a two-year deal with the Panthers.
Addressing the media this November, New York's general manager Joe Douglas took responsibility for Anderson's departure, explaining that the decision not to re-sign Anderson was one of his biggest regrets.
"I thought about Robby, a lot," Douglas told reporters. "I think what went wrong with us and Robby is we thought that Robby's value was going to be even greater than what he signed for in Carolina. I think that's on me, ultimately, and that's on us moving forward to get a better handle on every player's market value.
"Honestly we would all love to see Robby here doing what he's doing. But I tip my hat to the success he has but obviously we don't want to be in the business of losing good players."
If Anderson's performance in green and white isn't enough to make the Jets miss him, take a look at his numbers in his first season in Carolina. The wideout compiled 1,096 receiving yards—the first time he's eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in his career—with a career-high 95 catches.
While one player wouldn't have fixed the two-win Jets last year, Anderson certainly would've made this offense better. Besides, everyone involved—even former head coach Adam Gase—understood that the best way to unlock Darnold's untapped potential was to surround him with weapons.
Their inability to do so is, in large part, why Darnold struggled so much over his three years with the Jets.
Now, in a new uniform, Darnold has a new chance to develop into a competitive starting quarterback at this level. If he can produce with Carolina, it'll make the decision to allow Anderson to walk look even worse.
Remember, Douglas revealed last week that he wouldn't have parted ways with Darnold if New York picked later in the first round. Imagine what would've transpired had New York held onto Anderson and surrounded Darnold with even more playmakers last year.
You have to imagine Gang Green would've won more than two games, right?
"We have to surround our next quarterback with as much talent as possible," Douglas said on Tuesday.
New York solved that problem to a certain degree in free agency, adding Corey Davis to be Gang Green's new No. 1 wideout. Mix Davis with second-year receiver Denzel Mims, slot receiver Jamison Crowder and Keelan Cole (also added via free agency), and the Jets now have a respectable group of wideouts.
If the Jets go on to take quarterback Zach Wilson this month—it certainly seems like they're going to—and he turns out to be the real deal at the next level, there's a chance they won't miss Darnold or Anderson one bit.
Then again, if that duo proceeds to produce at an elite level in Carolina, it'll give Douglas and Jets fans even more to think about as they watch their team take the field on Sundays.
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