NFL trade grade: Was Sam Darnold deal a win for everyone involved?

After Sam Darnold was traded away, which team walks away the ‘best’ winner? 

Sam Darnold is hitting the reset button. Hopefully, he’ll be the next great gunslinger in the NFC South.

The New York Jets elected to trade the fourth-year quarterback to the Carolina Panthers on Monday. In return, Carolina would send gang green a sixth-round pick in the 2021 draft later this month and a second-rounder and fourth-rounder in 2022.

Carolina also elected to pick up Darnold’s fifth-year option, guaranteeing his status through at least the 2022 season. Much like Ryan Tannehill with the Tennessee Titans, the hope is a new coaching staff can fix the former top-five selection and prove he still is worth being considered a franchise quarterback.

As for the Jets, this will allow them to take a quarterback of the future for GM Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh’s regime

In the end, who won the trade overall?

Jets Grade: A –

This felt inevitable when the team elected to fire Adam Gase following a 2-14 season. Douglas did not draft Darnold and Saleh likely wanted a quarterback for a five-year option. The team elected not to build around the former USC star, leading to disastrous play in 2021.

Three picks though goes a long way for the Jets, who now have 21 selections over the next two draft classes. A second-round pick will be viewed as a valuable starter down the line, as could diamonds in the rough with the sixth.

Comparing Darnold’s trade to the Mathew Stafford or Carson Wentz deal, New York actually received a decent haul. Stafford, who cost two first-round picks and Jared Goff, has thrown for 4,000-plus yards eight of his 12 seasons. Wentz played at a near MVP level in Frank Reich’s system.

Darnold finished dead last out of 33 quarterbacks in QBR for the 2020 season.

Panthers Grade: B+

It’s a gamble for any team to trade for an underachieving quarterback, but this deal makes plenty of sense. When interviewing for the Jets job in 2018, Panthers coach Matt Rhule was reportedly “enamored” by Darnold’s knowledge of the game.

Carolina has better protection than the Jets entering the NFL Draft after franchise tagging Taylor Moton. They also have better weapons in DJ Moore, Robby Anderson and Christian McCaffrey for Darnold to connect with. Expect new GM Scott Fitterer to be interested in adding another speedy target to replace Curtis Samuel.

Joe Brady will have the chance to transform Darnold in similar fashion that Arthur Smith did with Tannehill. The one problem is that turnovers cannot be the storyline for the 23-year-old any longer. Since entering the NFL, Darnold has thrown a whopping 39 interceptions and had 20 fumbles.

Is Darnold an upgrade over Teddy Bridgewater? Yes. Is he the future for the Queen City franchise? There’s certainly a shot when looking at the potential of the roster. In a weird way, this a win-win all around should Darnold thrive on his new team.

Three picks for a player who still is quite unproven, though? The edge goes to New York for now.