Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Jets ‘will answer’ calls for Sam Darnold, who Simms calls ‘last obstacle’ for 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo

Mar 4, 2021 at 9:31 AM--

New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas spoke with reporters on Wednesday and was asked about his quarterback, former No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold. The Jets own the No. 2 overall pick and are viewed as a strong candidate to draft a quarterback—perhaps Zach Wilson of BYU. The team could also opt to pursue Deshaun Watson if the Houston Texans ever release their grasp on the disgruntled quarterback.

Where does that leave the USC product, who has struggled on talent-deprived rosters in his three NFL seasons?

"I will answer the call if it's made," said Douglas when asked if he is open to trade offers.

Every potentially available quarterback has been linked to the San Francisco 49ers. Most of that has to do with the uncertainty surrounding quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. While he boasts a 24-9 record as the team's starter, the 29-year-old has also missed 23 games over the past three seasons, including 10 in 2020.

Darnold's name has not been absent from speculation surrounding the 49ers. Even now, after San Francisco's own general manager, John Lynch, publicly declared that Garoppolo would be the team's starter in September.

RELATED 'I really believe that Jimmy is our guy': John Lynch has no doubt Garoppolo will be the 49ers' QB

Douglas' most-recent comments differ from those he made in 2019 when he classified Darnold as an untouchable asset. The general manager still expresses confidence in his current quarterback but is seemingly more noncommittal this year.

"As it pertains to Sam, we think Sam is a dynamic player in this league with unbelievable talent," Douglas said via ESPN. "He really has a chance to hit his outstanding potential moving forward. [But] if calls are made, I will answer them."

Multiple teams have reportedly reached out to the Jets about Darnold. It's not inconceivable to believe that San Francisco, who reportedly contacted the Carolina Panthers about Teddy Bridgewater, would be among the teams to inquire about Darnold, either formally or informally. After all, the Jets' new head coach, Robert Saleh, is the 49ers' former defensive coordinator and remains close with much of San Francisco's staff, including head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Would the 49ers even be interested in Darnold? NBC Sports analyst Chris Simms, a close friend of Shanahan, believes they might. Although, he admits to having no inside knowledge about the situation. With acquiring Watson seeming like a long shot, Simms views Darnold as the one offseason obstacle ahead of Garoppolo in his path to remaining the 49ers' starting quarterback.

"To me, the one move that I still look at to go, 'Jimmy G not the guy guaranteed yet,' is the Jets and Sam Darnold," Simms said this week via Pro Football Talk. "That would be the only one. And I don't know how the 49ers really feel about him, but Sam Darnold is a guy ... I still have faith in. I think he can be an NFL starting quarterback. He'd fit that Shanahan system.

"The Jets are in a very good spot at No. 2 right now, and these damn quarterbacks that I've been evaluating, they're damn good. So, I could see them taking a quarterback and Sam Darnold being available. That's the last obstacle, I think, Jimmy G and his camp will have to overcome for him to be the starter next year."

Darnold has completed 59.8 percent of his passes for 8,097 yards with 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions in three seasons with the Jets. Should the 49ers look into adding Darnold, it would potentially mean two former first-round picks in the quarterback room. Josh Rosen, signed in December and re-signed in February, was selected seven spots after Darnold, and played college football at USC's cross-town rival, UCLA.

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