The Jets’ decision-makers still aren’t committing to Sam Darnold being their starting quarterback next season.
General manager Joe Douglas has taken trade calls for Darnold and will continue to as long as his phone rings. Douglas said the Jets are still evaluating everything and that they’re in no rush to make a decision on Darnold’s future.
"I will answer the call if it’s made," Douglas said during a Zoom call on Wednesday afternoon. "As it pertains to Sam, we think Sam is a dynamic player in this league with unbelievable talent who really, really has a chance to really hit his outstanding potential moving forward. But if calls are made, I will answer them."
Douglas considered Darnold untouchable in the fall of 2019, but things have changed dramatically – and for good reason.
The Jets are coming off a 2-14 season in which Darnold didn’t show the makings of a franchise quarterback. He threw nine touchdown passes and 11 interceptions in 12 games. Douglas is doing his job as GM by taking every call, while new coach Robert Saleh and his offensive staff pore over film of Darnold.
Together they will decide whether they feel they can win with Darnold, the No. 3 overall pick in 2018.
Had the Jets finished with the worst record in the league and had the No. 1 overall pick, it wouldn’t even be up for debate. They would take Trevor Lawrence and deal Darnold for draft capital.
The Jets have the No. 2 pick. BYU quarterback Zach Wilson and Ohio State’s Justin Fields are options if the Jets select a quarterback. But it sounds like they’re not making any firm decisions on Darnold until they go through Pro Days with the quarterbacks and other position players who could be taken high in the draft.
"Our timeline is gathering as much information as we possibly can, especially as it pertains not only in free agency but in this year’s draft class," Douglas said. "We feel like we’re really in no hard timeline in the immediate future to make a decision. But when we do make a decision, we’re going to do it after gathering as much information and good information as we possibly can."
Darnold’s future could change depending on what offers Douglas gets between now and the draft, which kicks off on April 29.
Player movement will start picking up shortly. The free-agent negotiating window opens on March 15.
The Jets have two first-round picks this year and next, which has led to the speculation that they could make a move for Deshaun Watson if the Texans choose to move on from their Pro Bowl quarterback. But Douglas made it sound as if he didn’t want to part with too many picks for any player. He believes in building through the draft.
"We have a lot of different scenarios and a lot of different rabbit holes we can go down," Douglas said. "Ultimately for us to get to where the great teams are, the most consistent teams are, you do that through the draft. It’s the most team friendly market in sports.
"For us to really be that team that’s consistently competing for Super Bowls we have to hit on our draft picks."
The Jets currently have more than $75 million to spend in free agency and will be active since they have needs everywhere, including skill positions. Douglas doesn’t believe not having his quarterback position settled will impact whether they’re able to sign a receiver.
"I feel like we’re well positioned. I feel like this isn’t going to hurt us in terms of free agents," Douglas said. "I really don’t feel like that’s going to affect our free agent plans or player free agent plans as it pertains to us."