Jets' Douglas praises Darnold, but open to trading QB

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FILE - New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold rolls out to pass against the New England Patriots in the first half of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass., in this Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, file photo. The 23-year-old quarterback was considered an untouchable player on the roster only a year ago. General manager Joe Douglas has backed off that stance, though, and it could signal a major change at the position as free agency and the NFL draft approach. I will answer the call if it's made, Douglas said Wednesday, March 3, 2021, when asked if he'd listen to offers for Darnold from other teams. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

NEW YORK – Sam Darnold's time as the face of the New York Jets franchise might be nearing a disappointing end.

The 23-year-old quarterback was considered an untouchable player on the roster only a year ago. General manager Joe Douglas has backed off that stance, though, and it could signal a major change at the position as free agency and the NFL draft approach.

“I will answer the call if it's made,” Douglas said Wednesday when asked if he'd listen to offers for Darnold. “As it pertains to Sam, Sam’s, we think, a dynamic player in this league with unbelievable talent and who really, really has a chance to really hit his outstanding potential moving forward.

"But, you know, like I said earlier, if calls are made, I will answer.”

Douglas' comments during a video call that included new coach Robert Saleh marked the first time the GM directly acknowledged being willing to trade Darnold. And that has the quarterback's future with the Jets murky — just three years after being hailed as a potential long-term solution at a position that has long lacked consistent production.

“Our stance on Sam hasn’t changed,” Douglas insisted. “He’s an extremely talented player and he’s very smart, very tough. And we have no doubt that Sam is going to achieve his outstanding potential. Obviously, we’re in the process of getting as much information as we can leading up through free agency and the draft.”

Then-GM Mike Maccagnan traded up in the draft to select Darnold with the No. 3 overall pick in 2018, but the quarterback has not lived up to those lofty expectations because of inconsistency and injuries. Former coach Adam Gase acknowledged he didn't help Darnold enough to thrive, and the Jets lacked playmaking talent to help him take the next step in his development.

While Darnold has shown flashes during his three NFL seasons, there remain serious doubts as to whether he can lift the franchise. His contract also makes his status uncertain.