Updated: Apr 5, 2021
(Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
FanDuel posted a hypothetical trade scenario two days ago on Twitter where the Steelers traded a second-and sixth-round pick to the Jets for quarterback Sam Darnold. Some Steelers fans loved the idea and others were not fond of it. Regardless, it certainly created discussion.
The Steelers need an heir apparent to the 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger, who most likely will retire following the 2021 season. They have Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins behind Roethlisberger, but judging by what we've seen from the two so far, they're not going to be the answer.
Darnold has had a tumultuous career so far, but you have to consider that he's been playing for one of the worst run organizations in the NFL in the Jets. In his three years in New York, Darnold completed 729 of 1,219 of his passes (59.8%) for 8,097 yards and had a 45-39 touchdown-interception ratio, along with a 78.6 quarterback rating. So, yeah his stats are not impressive, but he's also been on a terrible team with very few weapons.
It appears the most teams will give up for Darnold is a third-round pick, which seems right given his mediocre career so far. Darnold has not shown that he's capable to be a franchise quarterback, but he's still only 23 years old, and given the right coach and organization, he could turn things around.
Mike Tomlin and the Steelers would be the right kind of organization for Darnold, but I don't think the Steelers should give up a second-round pick or a conditional pick for him. A third-round pick for Darnold would make more sense, but in all honesty, I can't see the Steelers making the move. They just have too many other needs and they should be going all-in with Roethlisberger in assumingly his final season with the Steelers. They should draft a running back, offensive tackle and center in the first three rounds. They also have needs at tight end, cornerback, inside linebacker and outside linebacker.
A trade for Darnold also won't make sense from a cap standpoint as Bob Labriola of Steelers.com suggested in his Asked and Answered segment on Tuesday. The Steelers would owe Sam Darnold $4.605 million in salary and roster bonus for 2021 if they were to trade for him, which is all guaranteed. Then on or before May 3, 2021, the Steelers would have to make a decision on whether to exercise the fifth-year option on Darnold's rookie contract or allow him to become an unrestricted free agent in March 2022. The fifth-year option on Darnold's contract is for $18.8 million in fully guaranteed money as well. So, yeah I don't see the Steelers doing that for an unproven quarterback.
There are just too many holes on the roster and trading a third-round pick for Darnold would hinder them for the 2021 season. It's just too risky to give up that much draft capital for a quarterback who is a project. He has shown glimpses of potential, but is he a franchise quarterback for the next 10 years? He's certainly a better option than Rudolph and Haskins, but I just see the Steelers addressing the quarterback position in the 2022 NFL Draft to find the heir apparent to Roethlisberger. For the time being though, the Steelers are going to improve their team through the draft and help out Roethlisberger by hopefully getting a feature running back and rebuilding the offensive line.