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Jets to Panthers: How the Sam Darnold Trade Affects the Dallas Cowboys

The NFL Draft’s top 10 has already seen some movement as the Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles traded back. The San Francisco 49ers traded up. The Carolina Panthers made a trade while hanging on to the eighth overall pick.

Before the Panthers swapped their sixth-round pick in 2021 and their 2022 second and fourth-round picks for Sam Darnold of the New York Jets, it was assumed that Carolina would go quarterback with the eighth overall pick in the draft. They had been one of the teams rumored to be in on Matthew Stafford and were willing to make a big play for Deshaun Watson. It was obvious they were looking to alter their quarterback situation. So, quarterback to the Panthers at eight seemed like a slam dunk.

And for the Dallas Cowboys, that was a good thing.

The Cowboys want as many quarterbacks and wide receivers going in the first nine picks of the draft as possible because it creates more potential for Kyle Pitts or Patrick Surtain to be available for them at the 10th overall pick.

The Panthers are expected to pick up the fifth-year option on Sam Darnold’s rookie contract giving them the 2021 and 2022 seasons to work with Darnold. It certainly doesn’t keep them from drafting a quarterback this year if there’s one they like. However, this trade might imply that they aren’t sold on the idea that any of the top quarterbacks get to them at number eight. And with holes throughout their roster, they could use the eighth overall pick to perform a trade-back with a team looking to get the fourth or fifth quarterback off the board.

For Carolina, this brings everything to the table as an option. They could go with an offensive lineman. They could go linebacker or cornerback. Or they could add another skill position player in Pitts or one of the wide receivers to provide Darnold and Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady with another weapon to work with.

The problem for the Dallas Cowboys is that this adds another team into the mix that could take Patrick Surtain off the board. Even though plenty of mock drafts have the Cowboys and Surtain tied together, there have been plenty of mocks sending Surtain to the Denver Broncos at nine.

Even if the Panthers don’t take Surtain, they look like they’re out on the quarterback market, which takes another non-quarterback off the board for Dallas. Because that’s the beauty of where they sit in the draft. With the number of quarterbacks, wide receivers, and offensive lineman potentially going in the top nine, the Cowboys were well-positioned to have the pick of the litter when they went on the clock.

We’re still weeks away from the Jacksonville Jaguars going on the clock with the number one overall pick and there’s a good chance we see even more movement before the draft. Certainly, after the first few picks go off the board, there will be a couple of teams that look to trade into the top 10 to get their guy.

This was a good trade for both the New York Jets and the Carolina Panthers. For the Jets, they were able to get a future second and fourth-round pick, but just a sixth in 2021 for a player that they were out on. The Panthers get a quarterback that had a lot of potential coming out of college and is still quite young. If it works out all it cost them was a second-round pick and a couple of mid-to-late round picks. With a much better offensive mind in Joe Brady than Darnold had in Adam Gase, there’s a chance the former USC Trojan could find a second wind to his career.

Unfortunately for the Cowboys, this trade probably takes a player off the board for them. They’ll still get a really good player that has the chance to be elite, but it’s one less player to choose from. And as Norm Hitzges of 1310 The Ticket in Dallas says, “it’s all about options buddy.”

What do you think?

John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.


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  1. It’s a interesting article John , it seems with this trade , the Panthers can pretty much go anywhere and do anything with that pick

    My guess is they’ll go Parsons , though if Pitts is there he could very possibly go there too , but Parsons seems like a pick Panthers and Rhule would make , plus they lost Kuechly 2 years ago at LB , maybe they’ll want to find them someone who can try to fill his shoes

  2. Bottom line, these pre draft scenarios will not end until we get to the draft itself.

    Right now, the favorite positions in our 1st Rd appear to be CB, OT, with Parsons and Pitts being possible. Of course this can change if we pick up FAs at CB and/or LB which are being rumored. It a very fluid situation with still about three weeks to go.

  3. Very interesting article. We still have a good shot at an elite player….. being Pitts, Parsons, Surtain, Horn, Sewell or Slater. Comfortable with either of these picks.

  4. VAM- Ur right things will remain fluid moving forward. In fact they will remain fluid even as the draft begins and progresses. I still think there is a chance for a trade down, in hopes of getting a desired player and getting some trade capital. Would likely need a QB to drop to see that scenario. The Darnold trade decreases that chance but still could be the best scenario.

  5. There are very few defensive players coming out of the draft that are considered elite, whereas there are several on offense, including a few on the Oline.

    Parsons IMO being the surest bet on defense independent of position or need. Surtain and Horn are projected as very good but are they elite? Would they even be considered at #10 if we didn’t have such a need at the position? Premium positions are generally overdrafted due to the importance of the positions, QBs especially.

    Cowboys need to be careful not to fall into that trap. Not saying we shouldn’t take a position of need or premium position, just thinking out loud.

  6. There is no way Jerry Jones will trade out of the top ten. It would have to be a trade that yields Hershel Walker type returns. Trading up I am not ruling out. But for who you might ask?………….This draft could be horrible after the first pick, McCarthy keeps insisting on incorporating our defense into playing more 3-4, Dallas is a 4-3 defense your 3-4 is not welcome here, if McCarthy can’t get that thru his huge fat head then give the HC job to Dan Quinn or bring back Garrett and team him with Dan Quinn and Kellen Moore. Kris Richards going to the Saints will help them immensely, I liked him, he changed the Dallas Cowboys secondary and the Cowboys have adopted his palette for long tall rangy cb’s and ball hawking centerfielders (Enter Kazee and Jayron Kearse.) Keanu will be used as a linebacker to disguise safety blitzes and replace Sean lee. I see Kazee and Kearse splitting time until one of them claims the position. Very sad to see Xavier Woods leave, had McCarthy not tried to switch us to a 3-4 with no off-season or preseason in his contract year he really screwed Woods. Happy to see Woods land with the Vikes who value hard hitting safeties.

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