The Carolina Panthers are one of the few teams that could still be interested in adding a quarterback. They reportedly have had conversations with both the San Francisco 49ers and the Cleveland Browns about trading for Jimmy Garoppolo or Baker Mayfield, but there's no guarantee one will end up in Charlotte.
The Panthers have three quarterbacks that figure to be on the opening day roster in Sam Darnold, P.J. Walker and third-round rookie Matt Corral. Darnold would be the starter if the season began today, and head coach Matt Rhule has said that Darnold has improved from last year. His teammates have noticed as well.
"I could see a growth in him already from OTAs," Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore said on "The Rich Eisen Show." You know, everything has been hectic this offseason for him in the news-wise, with all the quarterbacks moving around. And the way he just handled it, he was talking to everybody, just was so poised. And then he came in and he's got to learn the new offense. He just took it full head-on."
Moore said he hasn't seen any "downward spiral" from Darnold, but that everything is trending upwards.
Darnold is under contract for one more season with Carolina, and his performance in 2021 didn't exactly lead fans to be optimistic about the future. The Panthers won their first three games of the season, but then things quickly went downhill. Darnold's performance dipped and he missed time with an injured shoulder. Carolina finished last in the NFC South with a 5-12 record, and Darnold threw nine touchdowns as opposed to 13 interceptions in 12 games played.
It's very possible the Panthers march forward with Darnold as their starter and with Corral in the wings. It's also very possible Darnold could actually improve in 2022, as Carolina overhauled its offensive line, returns Christian McCaffrey and has a couple of talented receivers to work through.
The Panthers also have a new offensive coordinator in Ben McAdoo. Moore told Eisen that he feels like there's a better structure to the offense entering this season, and that he's liked the changes the new OC has brought to Charlotte.
"I feel like it's a better structure for us going into this year than previous years. ... I could tell you a little something like the offense is way better than previous years," Moore said. "So we have a lot of upgraded weapons and calls that will help us out this year."