The decision of Sam Darnold to potentially return to USC would significantly affect the market, and therefore value, of available QBs next offseason.
At some point, the subject of Alex Smith’s trade value is going to be a hot topic. There will be column inches given day after day to the possibility of the Kansas City Chiefs trading their starting quarterback to another QB-needy team and what the Chiefs might receive in return for their offering. While there’s still plenty of time (and meaningful NFL games) to go until then, some of the conjecture can already begin with news that the quarterback market might be significantly affected by one prospect’s decision to stay in school.
NFL analyst Benjamin Allbright has word that Sam Darnold, the star quarterback from the University of Southern California, might be wanting to return to school rather than enter the NFL.
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Darnold is often listed alongside the others Allbright lists as one of the top quarterback options for teams willing to gamble in the draft. Unfortunately for USC and Darnold, the quarterback isn’t having a very good season, especially when compared to his redshirt freshman season of a year ago. Darnold’s completion percentage has dropped from 67.2% to 63.5%. He’s also already thrown one more interception than all of last season (10 to 9), and he’s thrown only 17 touchdowns compared to 31 from last year.
If Darnold were to stay for his junior year to not only improve his game but also his draft stock, the market for next year would look significantly different. The number of quarterback needy teams is only going higher as many veterans are looking older and injuries are taking their toll. Just ask the Arizona Cardinals how they feel now that Carson Palmer is injured for the year and their lack of real choices behind him.
Picture, then, the situation before the Kansas City Chiefs. Alex Smith is a $20 million cap hit that can be relieved by going with the first round pick who has already had a full year to learn on the bench. Smith has also, at least so far, played at an MVP level, a newfound production in his mid-30s that bodes well for teams to project solid stats moving forward for at least a few years. How many franchises would love to have Alex Smith leading their offense right now? If he were made available, how many teams would be competing in their bids?
That’s a scenario that would give Brett Veach some serious draft capital to plug some glaring roster holes as well as provide youth in places where the Chiefs are looking older.
The Chiefs will find themselves receiving more and more in any potential return for Smith proportional to the amount of quality options on the open market. For each viable NFL quarterback who decides to return to school, expectations for any return for Smith go higher. Darnold’s decision will be a major part of that, no matter what he decides to do.