The Carolina Panthers Have Nabbed Sam Darnold; Initial Reactions

The Panthers swapped some picks for Jets QB Sam Darnold. What does this mean?

Today, the Carolina Panthers sent a 2021 6th-round pick and a 2022 2nd and 4th round picks to New York for QB Sam Darnold. The Panthers wanted to go after Deshaun Watson when he was adamant about being traded. They have also considered taking a quarterback with the 8th overall pick in the upcoming draft, even possibly trading up if necessary. Now, they’ve landed a quarterback. So, what does it mean?

The Draft

Now that the Panthers have both Sam Darnold and Teddy Bridgewater on the roster, not to mention former XFL standout PJ Walker, it’s a safe bet they won’t be taking a quarterback at the 8th pick. This opens the Panthers up to a boatload of possibilities at number eight.

The Panthers have been in desperate need of a tight end since Greg Olsen’s departure. Ian Thomas hasn’t done enough to warrant standing pat at that position. With Christian McCaffrey, DJ Moore, and Robby Anderson in tow, the only skill position left is tight end. Kyle Pitts from Florida had already been mocked to them in several mock drafts, but now it seems like a no-brainer.

The other option would be Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth in the second round, but if Pitts is available at eight, he’s pretty much a can’t miss prospect. The gap between him and Freiermuth is substantial.

If Pitts isn’t available, or the Panthers decide to pass on him, another wide receiver to fill in the hole left with Curtis Samuel’s exodus, Heisman trophy winner DeVonta Smith out of Alabama might just be available at 8. If not, teammate Jaylen Waddle could or even Ja’Marr Chase (in a perfect world). Moving back for Minnesota wideout Rashod Bateman or Purdue’s Rondale Moore are good options.

If the Panthers don’t elect to fill those spots, the offensive line has been a position of need for the Panthers since 1995. They failed to address it before, and it led to former Panther Cam Newton sustaining damaging injuries. Between Oregon’s Penei Sewell or Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater, one of them is likely to be on the board for the Panthers, helping solidify the line in front of Darnold (or Bridgewater).

Of course, the Panthers could go defense in Penn State’s Micah Parsons (linebacker) or Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley (cornerback). Something tells me they’ll pass on defense after spending every pick there last year.

For the Jets, this all but solidifies them taking a quarterback at number two. With Trevor Lawrence all but gone, they’ll shift their focus to the field. They’ll have their choice of Trey Lance, Justin Fields, Mac Jones, and Zach Wilson. It’s probably between Wilson and Fields, but it’s anyone’s guess.

Teddy Bridgewater

Teddy Bridgewater might be out of a job. Teams don’t usually trade for starting quarterbacks on team-friendly contracts if they’re happy with their starter. Darnold has two more years on his contract. He’s only making $7.5 million a year, which is paltry compared to Bridgewater’s $20 million.

Since the Panthers aren’t likely to hold on to a $20 million backup, he’s a prime trade candidate. Not many teams are going to want the contract, but Bridgewater could provide solid play for a team that’s just in need of a quarterback. There are a few teams that come to mind:

New England seems sold on Cam Newton for another year, but they were looking at trading for Jimmy Garoppolo. They’re also rumored to be a big trade-up candidate at the draft, possibly for their quarterback for the future. The position is less than set.

The Washington Football team did just sign Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he’s been a career backup. Adding Bridgewater might not be a bad thing for a team searching for a quarterback. Bridgewater is much younger, so he could represent the future in Washington.

The Saints seem to want to hand the reins over to Jameis Winston. However, they had great success with Bridgewater before he signed in Carolina. Bridgewater was undefeated filling in for Brees. Could he replicate that success over a full season? It might be worth finding out.

The Eagles have been a mess at quarterback. They traded Carson Wentz after benching him for Jalen Hurts. The team isn’t sold on him, either. They benched him in Week 17 last season. There’s a new coach in town, so bringing in someone he likes (if that’s Bridgewater) makes complete sense.

The Chicago Bears looked at signing him last offseason. They ultimately signed Nick Foles and then added Andy Dalton. The Bears have been searching for a quarterback for, well, forever. Since they missed on Bridgewater last year, maybe they’ll look at him again.

San Francisco traded up to third, signaling they’re all in on a quarterback. However, if the guy they want isn’t there, a trade back isn’t unrealistic. And at that point, if they can find a suitor for Jimmy Garoppolo, bringing in the much cheaper Bridgewater makes sense.

The Steelers have committed to Ben Roethlisberger for at least one more year. That doesn’t mean he’ll be successful, or that he’ll play beyond this next season. The backup position is less than ideal in Pittsburgh, too. The Steelers may want to bring him in as the successor.

The New York Giants added quite a few weapons around Daniel Jones. If he struggles, or they decide to move on, Bridgewater might be a nice addition for them. For starting quarterbacks, Bridgewater’s salary is on the lower end.

The Bengals will likely be without former first overall pick Joe Burrow for a portion of the beginning of the year. Burrow tore his ACL towards the end of last season. If he can’t go, bringing in Bridgewater doesn’t hurt as the bridge (pun intended) to Burrow’s return.

Injuries are always a wild card. As soon as training camp starts, injuries are going to happen. Anyone is a candidate, too. If a team loses its starting quarterback, Bridgewater’s name shoots to the top of their to-do list if they plan on salvaging the season.

It seems like the Panthers have settled on their quarterback. The Jets have made up their minds, too. The Panthers probably spent too much on Darnold, though. The Panthers sent three picks, including a second-rounder, for a guy that NFL execs considered worth just a third-round pick is a high(ish) price. He’s cheap, but he hasn’t shown a ton of upside in New York. Joe Brady will likely bring the best out of him, though, as he’s done in the past.

The Panthers added the guy they wanted, and that’s all you can really do in this league.