While the Jets haven't made a decision about the future of Sam Darnold yet, they're reportedly fielding trade calls on him. That doesn't mean they'll move the former No. 3 pick, but it's certainly a signal they're strongly considering the idea as the quarterback trade market explodes like a meme stock. So where could Darnold head to next? Here are the most likely trade destinations for the former USC star.
While rumors of Andrew Luck coming out of retirement led us to consider his future destinations, the more likely scenario is Luck remains retired and the Colts need to find another starting quarterback following the retirement of Philip Rivers. The Colts could sign a free agent like Jameis Winston or Ryan Fitzpatrick, but, with a Super Bowl roster in place, they're looking for a quick and long-term solution at quarterback. Darnold might not be that, or he could wind up being a Pro Bowler. It'll cost a first-rounder to find out, but it's likely worth the risk for a franchise in win-now and win-forever mode like the Colts.
Washington Football Team
Signs point to Alex Smith retiring after winning Comeback Player of the Year. With Dwayne Haskins already gone, that leaves Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen as the only quarterbacks in D.C. Simply put, that's not good enough for a team that just made the playoffs on the back of its incredible defense. That unit should remain elite, which means the quarterback position needs an upgrade. Washington picks 19th in the draft and won't find an instant starting quarterback there. If the Football Team trades that pick for Darnold, it will. It makes sense if WFT can agree on compensation with the Jets.
The Bears quarterback conundrum continues with rumors they're interested in trading for Eagles disgruntled QB Carson Wentz. Instead of trading for the worst quarterback in the NFL in 2020, why not trade for not the worst quarterback? Obviously Wentz has flashed higher potential than Darnold, but I'd be wary of trading for him after the performance he put up last year. Darnold, meanwhile, has been playing for a terrible team and under bad coaching. Perhaps a change of scenery unlocks his full potential, in which case he could lead the Bears back to contention. That makes more sense than wasting two firsts on a guy who hasn't looked elite in a few years.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers could cut ties with Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason for a minimal cap hit. If that's the case, they'll need someone new under center. They have the 12th pick and could draft someone like Trey Lance. But is Lance really ready to start for a playoff-contending team in a division suddenly rife with top quarterbacks? Hard to imagine. Their other options are to sign a free agent or trade for someone like Darnold. For a franchise that has become steady at virtually every other position except quarterback, the time for a long-term QB solution is critical. It's unclear if Darnold is that future, but it seems more likely they'll find their answer with him than in the draft or free agency.