Football Team

Reassessing WFT's Fitzpatrick signing after Panthers' Darnold trade

Football Team

Former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold officially won't be coming to Washington this offseason. New York traded the 23-year-old to the Carolina Panthers on Monday in exchange for a trio of draft picks.

The offseason sweepstakes for Darnold are now officially over, but Washington has really been out of the mix for the former USC star for a few weeks after signing Ryan Fitzpatrick in free agency and retaining Kyle Allen, too.

It's also worth noting that sources told NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay that Washington was never really in on Darnold, either, as they were "not looking for a reclamation project."

Ultimately, with a need for a quarterback quite high this offseason, Washington chose to sign Fitzpatrick over potentially trading for Darnold. Was it the right decision? Let's take a look.

By signing Fitzpatrick, a free agent, Washington did not have to give up anything to add the 38-year-old QB to its roster. And, with the deal being worth $10 million, Washington didn't have to pay much to acquire the veteran, either.

In order for the Panthers to land Darnold, they were forced to give up three draft picks. Sure, none of them were first-rounders -- which is what the Jets were reportedly asking for at first -- but Carolina did have to part with a second-rounder and a pair of Day 3 picks, nonetheless. 

For a young team like Washington still looking to build its team through the draft, parting with three picks to acquire an unproven quarterback would have been a lot to give up.

 

Recent performances by each player, obviously, are another factor, and Fitzpatrick has been the better of the two quarterbacks over the past two seasons. Let's just look at their last 16 starts, for example.

Fitzpatrick's last 16 starts: 4,414 yards, 27 touchdown passes, 13 interceptions, 65% completion

Darnold's last 16 starts: 2,808 yards, 13 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 64% completion

Of course, every situation is different. You could make the case that Darnold played under the worst coach in the NFL in Adam Gase the past two seasons, something that certainly hurt him (just look at Ryan Tannehill's success after leaving Gase in Miami).

But, it's not like Fitzpatrick had a great supporting cast in Miami, either. In 2019, when Fitzpatrick was the Dolphins' primary starter, Miami began the season as a club some thought could finish the year 0-16. Yes, they did end the year strong and win five games that season, but Fitzpatrick arguably had just as little help as Darnold did.

The numbers don't lie. Fitzpatrick has been the better quarterback as of late.

However, where Darnold does edge Fitzpatrick comes in an area that neither passer can control: age. Darnold has four NFL seasons under his belt but doesn't even turn 24 years old until June. While his NFL career has not started on the right foot, there is the possibility that a change of scenery could result in Darnold playing 15 more years of football.

Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, turns 39 later this year. In Washington, he'll be seen as an instant upgrade, but both parties know that he's not the long-term answer. Unless Fitzpatrick turns in a career year and then some for Washington this fall, it's hard to imagine him being the unquestioned starter for the club in 2022.

Washington played the safer card by adding Fitzpatrick over Darnold and also gave up less to get the 38-year-old veteran than it would have cost to trade for the former Jet. But, they also chose the player who has the lower ceiling and one that likely won't be around longer than a year or two.

Only time will tell if Washington made the right move.