Jets trade QB Sam Darnold to Panthers for 3 draft picks

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Nearly three years after New York selected quarterback Sam Darnold No. 3 overall, the Jets have traded him to the Carolina Panthers for a sixth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Darnold, 23, has one year remaining on his rookie contract, with guaranteed salary and bonuses totaling $4.6 million for the 2021 season. The Panthers have until May 3 to exercise the $18.9 million fifth-year option for 2022 that will provide a two-year window to evaluate Darnold as the starting quarterback.

New York was due to count $9.8 million of Darnold's salary against the salary cap this season, but the Jets will instead designate $4.8 million in relief and a $5 million "dead" charge for 2021.

Jets general manager, Joe Douglas, thanked Darnold for his commitment and professionalism in a team statement released on Monday.

"I want to publicly acknowledge the commitment, dedication, and professionalism Sam displayed while with the Jets," Douglas said. "He is a tough-minded, talented football player whose NFL story has not been written yet. While all these things are true, this move is in the short- and long-term best interests for both this team and him. We thank Sam for all of his work on behalf of this organization and wish him well as he continues his career."

The Jets are expected to select BYU quarterback Zach Wilson as Darnold's replacement with the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft scheduled for April 29.

Darnold played under two head coaches with two different offensive systems and lacked the stability to find success in New York. In three seasons with the Jets, Darnold had a 13-25 record as a starter, with 45 touchdown passes, 39 interceptions and a 78.6 rating. He also rushed for 417 yards on 114 carries with five touchdowns.

The Panthers have seven draft picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, and new general manager Scott Fitterer has committed to be "in on every deal" at any position.

"This doesn't take us out of anything in the draft," Fitterer said. "It doesn't take us out of taking a quarterback, it doesn't take us out of taking any position. What we wanted to do going into this draft, through free agency, through this trade with Sam, was to just get rid of all the needs we have.

"We wanted to get to a place where the roster was in a good spot, and we could take the best available player at No. 8. We could always move up, and we could always move back, but this puts us in a position to make the right football decision for this team moving forward."