The Carolina Panthers made waves throughout the NFL on Monday after trading for Sam Darnold in a deal with the Jets. While it hasn't been a tightly kept secret that the team has been feverously looking for an upgrade at the quarterback position this offseason, Darnold's official arrival to Carolina now puts the future of 2020 starter Teddy Bridgewater firmly in question. Darnold is now the presumptive Week 1 starter for the Panthers when they begin 2021, which makes Bridgewater expendable. When addressing the trade later on Monday, Panther GM Scott Fitterer kept all options open regarding Bridgewater, including a possible trade.
"We're going to find the right place for him, whether it's here or someplace else," said Fitterer.
If the Panthers were to keep Bridgewater as their backup, the two sides would almost certainly need to address the quarterback's contract. As things stand currently, Bridgewater is signed through the 2022 season and will have a cap hit of nearly $23 million for next year. That's likely too rich for Carolina's blood for a backup quarterback so a restructure could be in order if the two sides are planning to stick together.
What seems a bit more logical, however, is a trade. The Panthers have quarterbacks P.J. Walker, Will Grier and Tommy Stevens on the roster along with Darnold and Bridgewater. That's quite the crowd and Carolina will look to trim that area of the depth chart down in one form or another as the regular season draws near. Outside of Darnold, Bridgewater likely provides the opportunity for the biggest return out of those signal-callers via trade. The club could look to shed his salary and recoup some of the assets lost to acquire Darnold and provide Bridgewater with a clearer path to possibly start somewhere else next season.
This is quite the swing for Bridgewater, who inked a three-year, $63 million contract with the club last offseason. During his first season with the Panthers, he completed 69.1% of his throws for 3,733 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions over 15 games played. He also rushed for 279 yards and five touchdowns. While those numbers are solid, they didn't translate to consistent victories as the Panthers finished 2020 with a 5-11 record. Those shortcomings of not being able to get his team over the hump and more often in the win column were one of the driving forces for the team to acquire Darnold, thus leaving Bridgewater's immediate future in doubt.