Sam Darnold hasn't had the rosiest start to his NFL career. After being taken with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft by the Jets and being looked at as the franchise savior, his tenure in New York hasn't been as fruitful as once hoped it'd be. He's 11-18 as the Jets starting quarterback, which includes an 0-3 start to begin the 2020 season. Of course, this isn't all due to poor play from Darnold, who has shown flashes of brilliance over the first few years of his career. The Jets front office also hasn't been able to capitalize on having a talented young quarterback on his rookie contract by building a roster around him that plays to his strengths.
With this winless start to the 2020 season, the Jets appear firmly in contention for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. If that ends up being the case, New York would be looking down the barrel at Clemson phenom quarterback Trevor Lawrence, which could spell the end to Darnold's time in the Big Apple. If it plays out that the Jets do want Lawrence, could Darnold end up in Pittsburgh via trade? That would be something that Steelers star receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster would love to see.
"That my guy, man. Sam Darnold, if we could get him to Pittsburgh, I would, but I love Ben [Roethlisberger] so it is what it is," Smith-Schuster told CBS Sports' "All Things Covered" podcast. "I'm just saying he's a great kid. I played with him so he's one of my boys so I wouldn't mind playing with him again."
This doesn't appear to be a slight on the play of Ben Roethlisberger by any means. Smith-Schuster has enjoyed tremendous success with No. 7 under center, including a start to this season where the receiver has hauled in 17 passes for 160 yards and three touchdowns through three weeks. The 23-year-old's affinity for Darnold -- his former USC teammate -- seems to be centered more around the potential post-Big Ben era. After all, Roethlisberger is 38 years old and only has two years remaining on his contract.
Darnold, meanwhile, could be a free agent as early as 2022 if New York doesn't pick up his fifth-year option. Even if they do, he'd be a relatively cheap option with just a $9.7 million cap hit in 2021. Through three games this season, Darnold has completed 61.5% of his passes for 562 yards, three touchdowns, and four interceptions.
"I played with Sam Darnold in college and he was a great player, led us to a Rose Bowl," said Smith-Schuster. "There's no doubt that he has that 'it' factor in him. The NFL's a lot different now, schemes and all that other stuff so I think that it just takes time. I think his time is coming soon. Right now, I think it's tough."
Naturally, Pittsburgh will be focused on a 2020 season where they are 3-0 and looking like a true threat in the AFC, but this would be a very interesting situation to follow if Big Ben ever decided to hang up his cleats over the next few seasons.