Joe Douglas has a message for any teams interested in trading for Jets quarterback Sam Darnold: Call me.
The Jets general manager confirmed Wednesday that he will not hang up the phone if teams inquire about Darnold, a reversal of what he said in October 2019, when he deemed the quarterback untouchable.
“I will answer the call if it’s made,” Douglas said. “As it pertains to Sam, like I said, Sam is we think a dynamic player in this league with unbelievable talent who really has a chance to hit his outstanding potential moving forward. Like I’ve said earlier, if calls are made, I will answer them.”
But that is not the song Douglas was singing in 2019 at the trade deadline. After talking about fielding calls for Jamal Adams and Le’Veon Bell, Douglas said the only untouchable player is a franchise quarterback, and he said Darnold was exactly that. He said Darnold was the only player he would not take calls on.
Things have changed since then. Darnold had a terrible 2020 season. His 72.7 quarterback rating was the worst out of 35 quarterbacks who qualified. He failed to have a 300-yard passing game and had just nine touchdown passes to 11 interceptions.
Douglas and new head coach Robert Saleh face a decision of whether to stick with Darnold, who will be entering his fourth season with the Jets, or to move on, either by drafting a quarterback with the No. 2-overall pick or by trying to swing a blockbuster deal for Texans star Deshaun Watson.
“Our timeline right now 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 good information as we can.”
The Jets plan on attending the Pro Days of the top college quarterbacks before making a decision. Teams have had limited exposure to draft prospects this year because of the pandemic. BYU quarterback Zach Wilson will have his Pro Day on March 26 and Ohio State’s Justin Fields will conduct his on March 30.
“The Pro Day is extremely important,” Douglas said. “It’s just good to stand next to the quarterback, to see the spin off his hand, to see the ball jump off his hand, to feel his presence. Those are all important things.”
Free agency begins on March 17, so there is some speculation that the uncertainty at quarterback could hurt the Jets with free-agent wide receivers. Douglas downplayed that idea.
“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 feel like our evaluation, especially with the coaching staff that’s been the main thing we’ve been focused on. For the remainder of this week, we’re going to be on the phone with the agents of our own current players that are hitting free agency. 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.”
Douglas spoke highly of Darnold, perhaps to keep his trade value high, without committing to the 23-year-old.
“I would say with Sam, our stance on Sam hasn’t changed,” Douglas said. “He’s an extremely talented player. He’s very smart, very tough. We have no doubt that Sam is going to achieve his outstanding potential. Obviously, we’re in the process of gaining as much information as we can leading up through free agency and the draft, but our stance on Sam has not changed.”
Except now, Douglas is willing to pick up the phone.