The general manager spoke to the media on Tuesday and discussed his reasoning behind trading the former No. 3 overall pick. He also mentioned where the Jets are likely headed with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
Douglas also talked about how the Jets can’t make the same mistakes by failing to build a great supporting cast around the quarterback. Finally, he spoke about the possibility of adding a veteran quarterback to go with a rookie.
Let’s take a closer look at nine takeaways from Douglas’s press conference.
Could’ve kept Darnold
Douglas was more than okay with keeping Darnold for next season, but ultimately the Jets’ draft position guided his decision to trade their quarterback. “Having the No. 2 pick, I think it’s safe to say if our pick was a little bit later we wouldn’t be having this discussion right now,” Douglas said, per SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano. We’d be comfortable moving ahead with Sam.” Robert Saleh and his coaching staff would have been on board with that idea, too. Saleh praised Darnold’s skill set in his introductory press conference and felt he could have done well within Mike LaFleur’s system. However, it was Douglas’ call, and he believed the new coaching staff should start with a brand new quarterback.
Darnold’s contract didn’t line up with where the Jets are in their rebuild. Darnold had one year left on his rookie deal and the Jets had to decide on his fifth-year option soon. His fifth-year option would have cost the Jets nearly $19 million, which is a lot of money for a quarterback who has yet to prove much in his career. Even if Darnold played to a level worth that money, the Jets would have then needed to sign him to a big extension. Douglas was obviously aware of that. “We felt ultimately at the end of the day this was an opportunity to hit the reset button financially, so to speak,” Douglas said, per SNY.
‘Fair assessment’ Jets are taking a QB
Douglas said it is a “fair assessment” that the Jets are taking a quarterback with their top draft choice, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini. However, if a team calls with an offer for the No. 2 pick, Douglas will listen, as he always does when it comes to trades. That shouldn’t be looked at more than Douglas doing his due diligence, though. The Jets are more likely than not drafting a quarterback second overall…
But who will they take?
When Douglas was pressed about which quarterback the Jets will take, he said they have not decided yet. Douglas said they’re still in the “process” of evaluating the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft, per SNY. Douglas is known to have attended pro days Zach Wilson, Justin Fields and Trey Lance. The final hurdle remaining for the draft prospects is the medical checks, which will take place from April 8-10 in Indianapolis, so that could be what Douglas is waiting on.
So… it’s going to be Zach Wilson, right?
Douglas did hint at which quarterback they may be taking after Steve Young recently made some interesting comments. Young went on KNBR Sports Radio last week and said the Jets were “committed” to drafting Wilson. The Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback played his college ball at BYU, so he has plenty of connections there. Per ESPN, Douglas admitted that Young is “plugged into BYU pretty well,” but stuck to his word that they’re still in the pre-draft process of looking at quarterbacks.
Veteran QB a possibility
After losing Joe Flacco in free agency to the Eagles, the Jets don’t have a veteran backup quarterback. Douglas hasn’t ruled out the possibility of adding a veteran in free agency but said he likes what they have in James Morgan and Mike White. He took it a step further with Morgan, saying how “excited” the Jets are about him, per The Athletic’s Connor Hughes. It’s hard to see the Jets going into training camp with three inexperienced quarterbacks, but as Douglas said, there have been talks about bringing in a seasoned arm. “There is constant discussion in our pro scouting department.”
Can’t make same mistakes
One of the main reasons Darnold failed with the Jets was because of the bad supporting cast he had. Douglas wants to make sure that doesn’t happen again. “We have to surround our next quarterback with as much talent as possible,” Douglas said, per ESPN. They certainly have the draft capital to do it with 21 picks over the next two drafts. It’ll be up to Douglas to hit on those draft picks to give the next quarterback the pieces he needs to succeed. The Jets also had “a discussion” about keeping Darnold and a rookie quarterback, but Douglas didn’t think it was a great idea, per The Athletic. The Jets did something similar with Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow, and that failed miserably.
Believes Darnold will succeed
Douglas is confident that Darnold will turn his career around with the Panthers. “Sam is a first-class human being. I’m rooting for Sam,” Douglas said, per SNY. “I know he’s going to be successful.” The situation Darnold is walking into with the Panthers is a much better one. Carolina has stronger playmakers with Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore and Christian McCaffrey. Darnold should also get better coaching with Matt Rhule and his staff. It’ll be on Darnold, though, to prove that all he needed was a fresh start and a better team around him.
Didn’t discuss No. 2 with Panthers
The Jets could have stuck with Darnold and moved down from the No. 2 pick to acquire more draft assets. However, Douglas said that was not in the cards when it came to talks with the Panthers. “There was never any meaningful discussions (with Carolina) about Pick No. 2,” Douglas said, per SNY. As Douglas said before, having the No. 2 pick played a key factor in why they traded Darnold. Additionally, once the Dolphins traded the No. 3 pick to the 49ers for a haul, it seemed the Jets were staying put a two.