Panthers all in on new QB in 2021? Possibly Sam Darnold ought to ask Teddy Bridgewater how that went final yr

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After being outbid by the Rams for Matthew Stafford, after the civil lawsuits in opposition to Deshaun Watson swelled to just about two dozen and after evaluating all 5 prime quarterback prospects on this yr’s NFL draft at their respective professional days, the Carolina Panthers determined to commerce for Sam Darnold.

The previous No. 3 total decide heads to Carolina in alternate for his or her 2021 sixth-round decide and their second- and fourth-round picks subsequent yr. Sources informed CBSSports.com that Carolina intends to select up Darnold’s fifth-year choice for the 2022 season, valued at almost $19 million.

First-year Carolina GM Scott Fitterer needed to weigh Darnold’s unlucky damage historical past and propensity for turning the ball over in opposition to his youth, lack of weapons in New York and frequent teaching turnover. Ultimately, the prospect of the 23-year-old quarterback discovering his approach in Carolina — together with the Panthers working low on choices — proved alluring.

“So if it is a participant that we will hit on at this value and he’s our quarterback of the longer term, it is undoubtedly well worth the gamble,” Fitterer informed media Monday evening.

Whether or not Darnold blooms into the quarterback the Jets had as soon as hoped for in Carolina will probably be decided. What we’ll give attention to right here is the why for the Panthers and what it means going ahead, since it’s now a digital certainty the Jets will draft BYU’s Zach Wilson with the No. 2 total decide.

Panthers proprietor David Tepper was not going to let this offseason go by with out upgrading on the quarterback place after Teddy Bridgewater did not stay as much as expectations within the first yr of his three-year, $63 million deal. Tepper’s sights have been at all times set on Watson, however it wasn’t clear in January how Watson would have the ability to get his divorce from Houston.

That is why Carolina acquired into the Stafford sweepstakes, hoping to discover a date to promenade earlier than going alone. When the Rams outbid the remainder of the league, the main focus shifted again to Watson. Unbeknownst to the Panthers have been the 22 (and counting) particular person complaints of sexual misconduct and assault — together with a prison criticism that’s below investigation — which are being alleged in opposition to Watson, who has denied all allegations of improper acts.

With a commerce for Watson on ice, the ultimate choice the Panthers had was the draft. They acknowledged shortly their prime two quarterbacks — Trevor Lawrence and Wilson — would by no means fall to them. Being free at No. 8 to decide on the perfect pass-catcher, offensive deal with or cornerback obtainable turned extra attractive. And after the professional days of the highest 5 quarterbacks wrapped up in Columbus final Tuesday, Fitterer initiated commerce talks with Jets GM Joe Douglas in earnest and the 2 struck a deal Monday afternoon.

Fitterer was unwilling to call Darnold as QB1 like his Chicago peer Ryan Tempo did with Andy Dalton, however all of us perceive Darnold is the penciled-in Week 1 starter. It is implausible to suppose a workforce will commerce for Bridgewater on his present remaining contract any time quickly, and his solely probability of staying in Carolina and competing is to re-work his contract to make more cash in Carolina than wherever else on the road in a season with a depressed wage cap. (And by re-working his deal he would then be a extra enticing commerce piece for the Panthers.)

This, in fact, will not be an apparent improve to many. Bridgewater failed quite a few occasions in end-of-half conditions final season, however he began the season off extremely effectively whereas lacking his most vital offensive participant (Christian McCaffrey) many of the yr and at last struggling a knee damage in November from which he by no means totally recovered.

Bridgewater was one of many least aggressive quarterbacks within the NFL final season, and his averaged supposed air yards of seven.3 was within the backside quarter of the league. Fitterer famous Darnold’s potential to push the ball down the sector, although his common supposed air yards have dropped from 9.4 in his rookie season to 7.8 in 2020.

Tepper by no means acquired the bitter style of these failed fourth quarters out of his mouth, and the Panthers have been charged with discovering a brand new quarterback. Darnold’s untapped potential is an ideal match for the hubris of any NFL coach or determination maker who believes they will be those to lastly unlock the presents.

And perhaps it’s going to occur in Carolina in 2020. Or perhaps they will be on this very same spot a yr from now, seeking to de-commit from a quarterback after one yr and discover one thing new.

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