The Panthers are planning to keep Sam Darnold in town for at least the next two seasons after a blockbuster trade with the Jets brought the quarterback to Carolina. The Panthers are expected to pick up Darnold's fifth-year option, according to Joseph Person of The Athletic. Carolina has until May 3 to pick up Darnold's option.
Darnold would receive $18.858 million guaranteed in 2022 if the Panthers pick up his option. Given how much the Panthers gave up to acquire him (a 2021 sixth-round pick and second- and fourth-round picks in 2022), the likeliness of Carolina keeping Darnold around is not too surprising.
While many early mock drafts had the Panthers selecting former North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, a majority of recent mocks have projected Carolina going somewhere else with the No. 8 overall pick. Each of our four CBS Sports NFL Draft experts currently have the Panthers selecting either Northwestern's Rashawn Slater or Oregon's Penei Sewell with the pick to protect their new QB. Carolina could also trade back in the first round, given the offensive line depth in this year's draft.
As it currently stands, the Panthers' depth chart at quarterback consists of Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater (last year's starting quarterback), P.J. Walker and Will Grier. The Panthers could elect to trade Bridgewater, who completed over 69% of his passes last season. One team that may be interested in Bridgewater is the Broncos, who could also be a possible trade partner should Carolina decide to move back in the first round.
While there are questions surrounding Darnold's abilities, there are no questions as it relates to his excitement to be a member of the Panthers. Darnold, who recently worked out with Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, has said nothing but positive things about his new team. Still just 23 years old, Darnold comes to Carolina following a tumultuous three-year run with the Jets. And despite some of his struggles in New York, Panthers coach Matt Rhule clearly sees something in the former No. 3 overall pick.
"To go from being unwanted to being wanted is huge," Darnold said earlier this month. "Getting that news that you're going to be traded, of a team saying, 'Hey, we didn't want you," for whatever reason, is hard.
"But right now, I feel great about it, and I'm excited to get here, and get started."