Getty's Grant Halverson

One of the NFL's worst-kept secrets was the Denver Broncos' interest in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Once Carolina acquired Sam Darnold in a deal with the New York Jets to become the Panthers starter for 2021, Bridgewater became expendable and plenty -- including CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora -- pointed to Denver as a likely destination. Well, that speculation has now become reality as Carolina has traded the former first-round quarterback to the Broncos on the eve of the 2021 NFL Draft in exchange for a sixth-round pick, as confirmed by CBS Sports' Jonathan Jones

Specifically, the Panthers will be receiving the 191st pick in this year's draft in exchange for Bridgewater, whose departure also creates a bit more cap flexibility over the next few seasons. That said, Carolina will be paying the bulk of Bridgewater's contract, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. The Panthers will pay him $7 million while the Broncos will shell out $3 million for his services in 2021. 

The 28-year-old quarterback signed a three-year, $63 million contract with the Panthers last offseason but that marriage has proven that it wasn't going to stand the test of time. In 15 games played, Bridgewater completed 69.1% of his passes for 3,733 yards, 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. While those are respectable numbers, it didn't translate into wins as the Panthers went 4-11 while he was under center. 

Bridgewater has never donned a Broncos uniform before in his career, but Denver does come with some familiarity. GM George Paton was inside the Minnesota Vikings front office when they drafted Bridgewater in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. 

"Acquiring Teddy Bridgewater adds competition, experience and a strong veteran presence to our quarterback room," Paton said of the trade. "He's a talented player and leader who's had success in this league in a number of different situations. Being familiar with Teddy from Minnesota, he's going to compete and do everything he can to help us win."

In Denver, Bridgewater will compete with 2019 second-round pick Drew Lock for the starting spot in 2021. Lock didn't take the leap that the organization was hoping for in 2020 as he entered his first full season as the starter. He completed just 57.3% of his throws for 2,933 yards and had one more touchdown (16) than interceptions (15) in 13 games played. 

The big question, however, is how this trade now impacts the Broncos at the 2021 NFL Draft where they are currently situated at No. 9. Prior to this move, they were pegged as one of the number of clubs that could make a move to acquire one of the top five QB prospects in this class. Does this move change things in that regard? We'll find out on Thursday night.