Sam Darnold wasn't just twiddling his thumbs while waiting to get drafted this past spring. Like all fans of his future NFL team, the Jets quarterback was keeping a close eye on the Kirk Cousins free agency saga before the Redskins QB signed with the Vikings.
"I was definitely following it," Darnold said Monday ahead of his Week 7 matchup with Minnesota Sunday at MetLife Stadium, per the New York Daily News. "During the draft process, there's nothing really else to pay attention to. Because I'm not on a team. We're not trying to dial up anything. I'm not at USC trying to figure out what we're going to do the next year. And I'm not on an NFL team trying to figure it out."
The Jets were reportedly deeply invested in the Cousins sweepstakes, offering the veteran $30 million per year, according to the Daily News. But Cousins, now 30, turned them down to go to the Vikings on a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million deal.
The 21-year-old Darnold said he followed the news to ty to get a better sense of where he would be starting his NFL career.
"I was just really paying attention - especially during that time- definitely paying attention to Kirk free-agent wise and trying to understand what team maybe I could go to (and) who might pick me up," he said. "So, yeah, I was definitely thinking about all that stuff during the draft process. But at the same time, I knew I didn't have any control over it. But yeah, I was definitely paying attention and was aware of all of it."
Within days after Cousins' new deal, the Jets traded up in the draft for the Colts' No. 3 overall pick, which enabled them to grab Darnold.
"Everything worked out for the best, I think," Darnold said.
The Jets likely agree. Though Cousins has been no slouch in Minnesota with 1,921 passing yards (fifth-best in the NFL), Darnold has improved with each outing. He followed a strong Week 5 with a phenomenal performance in the Jets' Week 6 win over the Colts, completing 24 of 30 passes for 280 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
That's good enough for the second-best passing rating (89.8) in the league over the last two weeks.