The Carolina Panthers made the surprising move to release longtime signal-caller Cam Newton earlier this offseason, and they will move forward with a quarterback that started last season as a backup for a divisional rival. First-year head coach Matt Rhule didn't throw his hat into the ring for Tom Brady, he didn't elect to sign Jameis Winston or take a shot in the draft. Instead, he went out and grabbed former New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
The 27-year-old stepped in for an injured Drew Brees after the second game of the 2019 season and won five straight games for the Saints. In nine total games last year, Bridgewater passed for 1,384 yards, nine touchdowns and just two interceptions. He might have been one of the most underrated quarterback options in what was a loaded free agency class. According to Rhule, Bridgewater is not a placeholder or a bridge for someone like Will Grier or another future draft pick -- he's exactly what they were looking for.
"Teddy, for us, is exactly what we want," Rhule said, via Joe Person of The Athletic. "I think this offense in general, when you look at in New Orleans, that iteration of it, where Joe (Brady) first learned it, is not necessarily a vertical, down-the-field passing game as much as it is a catch-and-run, underneath, matchup type passing game.
"You obviously have to be able to throw the ball downfield. Teddy's got a great arm. I can remember he threw what I would call a launch route 48 yards down the right sideline to the 12-yard line against somebody. So he certainly has the arm strength to do it."
Bridgewater will be back in the saddle as the No. 1 quarterback for the first time since he suffered a devastating knee injury with the Minnesota Vikings ahead of the 2016 season. Initially, there were concerns whether Bridgewater would ever be healthy enough to play football again, but he has put those issues to bed with what he has been able to do on the field.
A couple of the reasons Rhule likes Bridgewater: he has shown the ability to master different offenses and also throw the deep ball. Rhule even hinted there could be more downfield shots since Carolina possesses some intriguing wideouts.
"I think one of the great things that's one of the strengths of our team is that Robby Anderson's a deep-play threat. Curtis Samuel is a deep-play threat. D.J. Moore is a deep-play threat," Rhule said, via the Panthers' official website. "So we feel like we have the power to be able to take advantage of throwing the ball downfield, and we know Teddy can do that."
With the likes of Bridgewater, Anderson, Samuel, Moore and Christian McCaffrey, maybe the 2020 season won't be as painful for the Panthers as most are predicting it will be. Rhule is certainly known for his prowess as a rebuilder, and if he says Bridgewater is exactly what he wants, you should be inclined to believe him.