When the LA Rams line up to defend Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, is this an audition for his future teammates?
The LA Rams will face the winless New York Jets in week 15. While there are not many reasons to doubt the Rams’ ability to win this one, the game will introduce some curious subplots to consider. For one thing, the Jets will likely be drafting first in the 2021 NFL Draft. Right now, many anticipate that Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrance will be drafted first. The only problem with that theory is that the Jets already have a recently drafted quarterback on the roster, Sam Darnold.
The LA Rams have gone with just two quarterbacks on the team’s active roster this season. But there is never a fire sale opportunity that Rams general manager Les Snead does not like. Right now, it seems clear that the New York Jets plan to bench Darnold next season in favor of drafting rookie quarterback Lawrence. It’s nearly impossible to imagine any other scenario for the Jets in the 2021 NFL Draft. Which then begs the question, what will the Jets do with Darnold?
I am Sam, Sam I am
Right now, the asking price for Darnold after four weeks was as much as a second-round and a fifth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft (the price paid by the Dolphins for QB Josh Rosen). But Darnold’s statistics so far have reinforced two flags: Accuracy issues and durability. Darnold has been in the NFL for three seasons, having been drafted third overall in the 2018 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. But in that time, he has played in just 35 games and completed just 59.5 percent of his passes.
He has thrown for 7,449 yards, 41 touchdowns, and 37 interceptions. Worst of all, he has regressed dramatically in his third NFL season. So why would any NFL team seek to acquire Darnold? Well, either the team is simply that desperate or the coaching staff believes that they could improve Darnold’s performance. Some websites have already begun to project Darnold’s next team. I think that may be premature.
Sam future Ram?
If the LA Rams were to exhibit any interest in Darnold, it would need to be for the second scenario. I personally do not think that his upside warrants that type of investment. But there are players on the Rams roster today who have been impressed with Darnold, and who most certainly have the ear of the coaching staff and of the front office.
Rams WR Robert Woods says he’s met Sam Darnold a couple of times through their USC connection, and he’s a fan: “You see some of the throws he makes, and they’re unbelievable. You’ve really just got to surround him with some guys and protect him, and he’ll make those plays.”
— Greg Beacham (@gregbeacham) December 14, 2020
It may prove to be nothing whatsoever, but it does add a bit of subplot to the Jets versus Rams game. What if the Jets play horrifically, but Darnold successfully completes a highlight-reel pass? The market on Darnold may already have dropped to an unrecognizably cheap asking-price of just a future fifth-round draft pick. Why so inexpensive?
Well, Darnold is underperforming from his drafted position. In his fourth NFL season in 2021, he would earn just under $4.775 million. While that is not much for a young quarterback, it’s rather expensive for a player who is regressing. And it’s a catch-22. If he plays, his production declines and his value drops. If he doesn’t play, he is not durable, and his value drops. If he is a healthy scratch, he is a bad value, and his value drops.
Nobody knows what will happen regarding the future of Jets quarterback Sam Darnold. But it’s unlikely that he lands on a team in need of a plug-and-play starter. Many NFL teams would prefer to develop their own rookie, rather than retrain a young quarterback who has developed bad NFL habits in the hope of finally unlocking Darnold’s true potential.
But some Rams players may lobby to acquire him in the hopes of salvaging his career. That’s likely a story for another day. But in the meantime, what happens when the New York Jets face the LA Rams at SoFi Stadium could have a long-lasting impact on Darnold’s career.