This Sunday's matchup with the New England Patriots could be Sam Darnold's final game as New York Jets quarterback.
The Jets have locked up the no. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and the front office will have to decide whether to bring back Darnold for the fourth season or move on from the 23-year old.
General manager Joe Douglas could trade Darnold and draft BYU QB Zach Wilson or Ohio State QB Justin Fields. Or, he could bring Darnold back and hope a new head coach will oversee his development more effectively than Adam Gase.
The former no. 3 overall pick has struggled in his third season, throwing eight touchdowns and nine interceptions in 11 starts, with a career-worst passer rating that is the lowest amongst qualified starters for 2021 (72.3).
Despite the disappointing season, Darnold remains confident going into the final game of the season.
“I absolutely believe my best days are ahead,” Darnold said, via ESPN's Rich Cimini.
Darnold has also dealt with a sprained throwing shoulder that forced him to miss four games.
After starting 0-13, the Jets have won two games in a row. Darnold's performance in Week 17 could still play a role in determining whether the organization retains him for 2021.
Darnold, for his part, isn't thinking about his future as he prepares for the Pats matchup. However, he did re-state his desire to return to Gang Green for his fourth pro season.
“I'm a Jet now,” Darnold said, “I know we all like to think of hypotheticals and what-ifs, but I'm a Jet right now. I love being here. I love the guys in the locker room. I love going to work every single day here.”
New England head coach Bill Belichick is a believer in Darnold's talent, as well.
“I don't think there's any shortage of talent there or playmaking ability,” Belichick said, via Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. ” … He's an athletic guy that has great size, big arm, hard to tackle in the pocket, good prospect, and he's being well coached.”
Darnold is set to earn about $4.7 million in 2021 — the final year of his rookie-scale deal with the Jets.