The Carolina Panthers are not in good shape right now. Following a disappointing 5-12 season, the Panthers are no closer to solving their quarterback situation than they were when they released Cam Newton back in the 2020 offseason. No team stands a chance without a franchise quarterback, so finding one of those should be Carolina’s top priority. With the offseason soon to be underway, let’s take a look at the most likely options.
Carolina Panthers Quarterback Options For 2022
Like it or not, Sam Darnold will be a part of this football team in 2022. The organization guaranteed his $19 million fifth-year option prior to the start of the 2021 season, and Carolina isn’t going to just eat all that dead money. Barring something completely unforeseen, Darnold is going to be on the roster.
However, just because he’s going to be a Panther doesn’t mean that he’s going to be a starter. The quarterback definitively proved that the Jets were not solely responsible for his underwhelming career, as he was one of the worst passers in the league by just about every metric. During his 12 healthy games, Darnold completed under 60% of his passes for just 6.2 yards per attempt, nine touchdowns, and 13 interceptions, while the advanced stats told a similar story.
If Darnold is lining up under center in Week 1, something has gone horribly wrong. At this point in his career, it’s clear that Darnold should be nothing more than a backup.
*gets hacked by Matt Rhule*
JFC what a throw by Sam Darnold. Haven't forgotten this one. pic.twitter.com/5tL3WWRSDk
— Johnny Kinsley (@Brickwallblitz) January 21, 2022
If the Panthers want immediate help, they should look to free agency and the trade market. The biggest target out there is probably Deshaun Watson, as the Panthers have been very aggressive in trying to secure his services. However, Watson has a no-trade clause and doesn’t want to be in Carolina, and it’s hard to imagine the Ben McAdoo hiring changing his mind.
This leaves Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson as the top trade candidates. While both quarterbacks are great, they are on the older side, and a trade wouldn’t make sense for the Panthers. Carolina has a strong defense, but the offense is more than a veteran quarterback away from contention. By the time the team fixed the offensive line, Wilson and Rodgers could be past their peaks. Plus, would either quarterback want to join a 5-12 squad at this point in their careers?
This leaves free agency as the most likely path for Carolina. The free agent market isn’t anything to write home about, as the best option is probably Jameis Winston. Making his way across the NFC South, the quarterback actually had a solid year before his season-ending injury against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s obviously not as good as the three aforementioned veterans, but he’s a clear upgrade on Darnold.
JAMEIS WINSTON HAS FIVE TOUCHDOWN PASSES. #Saints
📺: #GBvsNO on FOX
📱: NFL app pic.twitter.com/bqrTNmxwLe
— NFL (@NFL) September 12, 2021
The NFL Draft
The Panthers chose a bad year to need a quarterback. Widely considered to be the worst class in quite some time, Carolina will probably be choosing between Kenny Pickett, Matt Corral, Carson Strong, and Sam Howell. Now, chances are, none of these guys would have even been top-five prospects at their position had they declared one year earlier. However, that shouldn’t stop the Panthers from taking a shot on one of these young players.
The NFL Draft is a total crapshoot, and nobody knows for certain how good any of these prospects actually are. The 2017 quarterback class was supposed to be a weaker one, and that group had Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Having a franchise quarterback is everything in today’s NFL, and teams that don’t have one need to keep throwing darts until they do.
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