Why Sam Darnold’s asking price is tempting for the Panthers

(Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold
(Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

Could a lower asking price for Sam Darnold tempt the Carolina Panthers into trading for the quarterback during the 2021 NFL Draft?

Sam Darnold’s future with the New York Jets is firmly up in the air with the team set to use the No. 2 overall selection on BYU sensation Zach Wilson. The former first-round pick endured a stuttering start to his NFL career under head coach Adam Gase, which might see the new regime take their chances elsewhere with a college prospect who comes with a ton of upside.

This might be a little harsh on Darnold considering the lack of talent around him for the most part. But the NFL is a what have you done for me lately business and the Jets might not be picking this high again for a long time after some shrewd additions in free agency, coupled with the appointment of Robert Saleh as their new head coach.

Once those in power at MetLife Stadium make their expected choice and take Wilson, the door will then formally open with a view to trading Darnold. The Carolina Panthers are reportedly one of the teams looking to give the signal-caller another chance to shine, which would be a make-or-break move for the player in pursuit of being a successful starter at the next level.

Darnold has a lot of likable traits that ensure he’ll get another opportunity. And considering what the Jets are reportedly willing to accept to get rid of the player, it might see more than a few teams make a call.

Sam Darnold could be moved for a mid-round pick during the NFL Draft.

According to ESPN reporter Kimberley Martin, some general managers across the league are now looking at a low third or conditional fourth-round pick as a possible bargaining chip for Darnold, with whoever takes him unlikely to trigger his fifth-year option before he proves himself in a different environment.

"“Talked to three NFL GMs about the market for Sam Darnold. I asked what’s the most they’d be willing to give up: Two said a 3rd Rd pick — with one saying even a late 3rd would be “a little rich.” The other GM said “maybe” a 3rd or conditional 4th… I was repeatedly told whoever trades for Darnold likely won’t pick up his option this spring. So, you’d only have a year of him in a new org, in a new system, working w/ new teammates while he’s trying to figure it all out *and* the team is trying to work out his bad habits.”"

There was talk of a second-round pick in return for Darnold at one stage during the offseason, which would have been a little rich for a player that the jury is still out on. However, if the Panthers end up grabbing the USC product for a fourth-rounder, it represents a low-risk, high reward trade that could reap benefits.

Obviously, there is a riddle yet to be solved where Darnold is concerned.

Was he a product of his environment in New York?

Or does he simply not have what it takes to be a prolific NFL starting quarterback?

The Panthers won’t know for sure unless they get him in the building. They would also be wise to seek the opinion of Robby Anderson, who worked with Darnold during their time together with the Jets.

Anderson has spoken about getting a new lease of life after removing himself from the moribund atmosphere surrounding the Jets under Gase. If Darnold can have similar success, it could end up being a real steal for the Panthers providing New York is willing to accept a late Day 2 pick for the player.

It’s clear Carolina is only going to get so far with Teddy Bridgewater under center. They made their intentions clear about finding an upgrade almost from the word go with a failed attempt at landing Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions, with Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson’s current situation putting plans for a potential trade on hold at this juncture.

Settling for the fourth or even fifth prospect up for grabs in the 2021 NFL Draft could have its own set of complications. Darnold is on the final year of his rookie deal and could be moved on next year if things don’t work out, but if things start trending on an upward curve for him, Carolina might have its long-term starter.

It’s a fine line, of that there is little doubt. But the reported compensation – or lack thereof – could tempt the Panthers into a gamble where Darnold is concerned.