CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When Sam Darnold came to the New York Jets as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 draft, his goal was to spend the next 20 years in New York and win a lot of Super Bowls.
He said that made being traded to the Carolina Panthers after just three, non-playoff seasons all the more difficult to accept.
Darnold said when he heard the Jets were going to trade him, it was a “tough pill to swallow."
But he said he's embracing a “fresh start” with a team that truly wants him, as he arrived in Charlotte and spoke to the Carolina media for the first time on Monday.
"Now, coming in as a Carolina Panther, I'm very excited for this opportunity," Darnold said. "Just to come in with a fresh start. I'm just excited to get going."
Darnold will only be 24 years old when the 2021 season begins, but his first three years in the NFL were sub-par while playing for the dysfunctional Jets.
The former USC signal-caller threw 45 touchdown passes and 39 interceptions.
His QB rating was 72.7, and his completion percentage was just 59.6.
"I'm coming in with an open mind," Darnold said. "Just seeking a great opportunity to lead this football team and move the ball up and down the field and score touchdowns. That's what I'm most excited about, and I think I have a really good opportunity here to do that."
Panthers Coach Matt Rhule still thinks Darnold has the arm talent and the mobility to be a good NFL starter
"When you see his arm talent, I don't think there's a game you watch where you don't say 'There it is,'" Rhule said.
After acquiring Darnold, Panthers General Manager Scott Fitterer hinted at a possible move for 2020 starting QB Teddy Bridgewater, and the team has reportedly given him permission to seek a trade.
But what about the NFL Draft? Could the Panthers still select a QB with the No. 8 pick?
"At the eighth position, we'll be flexible," Rhule said. "We'll look to take the best player available. We'll continue to look at quarterbacks."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.