Life comes at you fast in the NFL, as Sam Darnold has now discovered firsthand. The former third-overall pick went from being the franchise quarterback of the New York Jets to mostly an afterthought this offseason, with the club owning the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. And as recently as Sunday, former Jets teammate Josh McCown noted Darnold's . One day later, he was traded to the Carolina Panthers, but there presumably won't be a competition there either, with incumbent starter Teddy Bridgewater likely on his way out of Charlotte.
The Panthers have reportedly given Bridgewater permission to speak with other teams to help facilitate a potential trade, via Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. This allows him the opportunity to possibly select where he plays next, as opposed to blindly shipping him out of North Carolina to fast forward to what feels like an inevitable divorce. The Panthers are reportedly open to keeping Bridgewater, but it seems obvious he'd have to concede to a backup role if he stays -- at least initially.
A former first-round pick himself, Bridgewater did have an uneven performance as QB1 for the Panthers in 2020, but he's also shown recent success as a starter before taking up that mantle, evidenced in his time with the New Orleans Saints. When Drew Brees missed games with injury in 2019, Bridgewater went 5-0 as starter, and there's been speculation the Saints and head coach Sean Payton wouldn't mind rejoining forces with Brees now retired. That speculation has since quieted after the Saints re-signed Jameis Winston to a one-year, $12 million deal, but if they want to make it a true competition to see who can take over for Brees, adding Bridgewater to the mix would spice things up quite a bit.
It'll be interesting to see what happens next with Bridgewater, especially considering the QB market isn't what it was a few weeks ago when headline talent found new homes, and with the draft less than a month away. Additionally, the Panthers have been unable to find a trade partner over the previous weeks, and Bridgewater being due a base salary of $17 million in 2021, with $10 million guaranteed, is an added complication. He has two years remaining on his current contract with the Panthers, including a $20 million salary due in 2022, so he'd likely have to accept a pay cut to carve his way onto a new roster.
It's not exactly the best time for Bridgewater to go house hunting, but the Panthers haven't really given him a choice in that regard, assuming he still wants what they're now prepared to give to Darnold. They are, however, at least giving him a choice as to where he lands next.