In the midst of the Carson Wentz to Chicago rumors, NFL Insider Field Yates predicted a different face lining up under center in 2021 for the Bears. Yates recently wrote an article anticipating who will be the starting quarterback for each NFL team in the upcoming season. He claimed that the Bears will start the season with Sam Darnold at the quarterback position.
In an interview on ESPN’s television show Get Up, Yates explained his thinking, saying “The Chicago Bears were actually the last team I filled in for this exercise, and I gave them Sam Darnold,… They need to make a quarterback move. Darnold needs a change of scenery in a major way. He’s just 23 years old. Perhaps Matt Nagy believes he can be the player many thought he would be when he came out of USC.”
Yates is correct that Darnold “needs a change of scenery.” It is quite possible that the 23 year old’s new team unlocks his potential. However, it is uncertain whether the Bears and their coaching staff can be the one to do it. This raises the question, should the Chicago Bears trade for Sam Darnold?
Most of Darnold’s statistics suggest that he is a bonafide bust. The former third overall pick threw nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions for a passer rating of 72.7 in 2020. However, one could argue that these disappointing statistics are due to a lack of help on offense.
Darnold’s best wide receiver was Jamison Crowder, followed by Breshad Perriman and Braxton Berrios. His tight ends were Chris Herndon and Ryan Griffin. At running back, he had an ancient Frank Gore and Ty Johnson. Few quarterbacks could succeed with these options.
His protection was subpar as well. Darnold was sacked 8.8% of the time, third highest in the NFL. He was sacked eight times and pressured on 27.5% of drop backs, ranking eighth in both of those categories.
One final excuse for Darnold’s poor play is the Jets coaching staff. Former Jets head coach Adam Gase is infamous around the NFL, known for his head-scratching decisions. Not many young quarterbacks would be able to develop properly under a coach like that.
At surface level, these setbacks look like Darnold should assume little blame for his struggles. However, Darnold had the worst fourth worst percentage of passes on target at just 71.8%. He also was given the 18th most average time in the pocket, which is not great, but better than what his statistics under pressure show. It raises questions about his comfortability and poise in the pocket.
It is difficult to determine whether Darnold’s poor statistics and play represent a bad supporting crew or a bad quarterback. Either way, it shows that Darnold would need much more help on offense to succeed.
Fortunately, the Bears would have to invest less in trading for Darnold than other quarterbacks, such as Deshaun Watson or Derek Carr. According to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, the best the Jets could get for Darnold would be “second round pick, plus something.” This asking price is much more reasonable for a Bears team that needs an infusion of youth.
Financially, Darnold’s contract would not be a large burden for the Bears. In 2021, he is set to make about $9.8 million, which is not bad for a starting quarterback. After 2021, he has a fifth-year option in place that would allow the Bears to keep him if the plays well and move on if he does not.
Darnold’s price, both financially and in draft capital, is certainly reasonable for a Bears team with limited assets.
The Bears are contenders for Jets quarterback Sam Darnold as they try to fix the quarterback position this offseason. Darnold has potential despite his underwhelming statistics and acquiring him would not be too difficult. However, it is quite possible that Darnold continues to struggle, furthering his label as a bust. It would make sense for the Bears to trade for Darnold if they acquire no one else, but he is too risky of an addition to be Chicago’s number one priority this offseason.
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