The Carolina Panthers are going to have to pivot at quarterback once again. According to reports from across the league, Deshaun Watson will not waive his no-trade clause for Carolina, meaning that the team will need to look somewhere else to find their 2022 starting quarterback. Fortunately, there are still a few viable options the Panthers could get through free agency or in a trade.
Keep in mind that this list factors in both the talent of the quarterback in question, along with the presumed cost of acquisition. We also will not be talking about any of the NFL Draft prospects, as none of these veterans should stop the Panthers from investing in another young arm.
Top Five Carolina Panthers Quarterback Options
1. Jameis Winston
If Deshaun Watson goes to the Saints, then the Carolina Panthers should do everything in their power to get Jameis Winston under center. The former first-overall pick is an aggressive gunslinger, which is something of a double-edged sword. That being said, he’s clearly a starting-caliber quarterback, as evidenced by his time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints. Last year, New Orleans went 5-2 with Winston in the lineup and 4-6 without him. Nobody is saying he’s a superstar, but he has the potential to be a league-average starter, something the Carolina Panthers haven’t had since the first half of 2018.
2. Marcus Mariota
Marcus Mariota is perhaps the biggest risk/reward signing left on the market. The Oregon product played well during his first few years in the league, but injuries clearly took away a portion of what made him special during his final years in Tennessee. If the injuries were just bad luck and he just needed a few years on the bench to return to health, then Mariota has top-15 potential. However, that is a big if, and there is a chance he never regains the magic of his early years. Still, that’s a gamble the Panthers should be willing to make, seeing as he probably won’t cost too much money to obtain.
Marcus Mariota drops a PERFECT dime to Darren Waller for the TD! 🎯 pic.twitter.com/tan0cQwVu2
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) December 18, 2020
3. Baker Mayfield
The Cleveland Browns finally have a talented young quarterback, and it took them all of four years to completely ruin their relationship with the passer. Baker Mayfield requested a trade after the team brought in Deshaun Watson and leaked to the media that they wanted an “adult” at quarterback. Looking for an upgrade is one thing, but crawling back to Mayfield after the blatant character assassination easily justifies a trade request.
The jury is still out on whether or not Mayfield is a true franchise quarterback, but he has shown extended stretches of brilliance. He looked like a franchise savior as a rookie and carried Cleveland to the playoffs without Odell Beckham in 2020. The Browns don’t want to trade Mayfield, but if they have a change of heart, then the Panthers should make a move. While acquiring him might require giving up some good picks, he’s the only guy on this list that has a chance of developing into a legitimate franchise quarterback.
4. Jimmy Garoppolo
Jimmy Garoppolo can be a very efficient pitching machine in the right system. San Francisco rarely asks him to do more than snap the ball and throw it to his first read, but there is value to a guy that can consistently execute the “easy” stuff. However, he cannot do anything beyond the guidance of the offensive scheme, and that will be a problem in Carolina.
Ben McAdoo is probably as far away from Kyle Shanahan as you can get in terms of offensive creativity and inspired playcalling. Additionally, the Panthers have one of the worst offensive lines in football, and Garoppolo is one of the worst quarterbacks in the league against pressure. This is objectively a bad fit, but it would still be an upgrade on Sam Darnold.
5. Cam Newton
Cam Newton is the greatest quarterback in the history of the Carolina Panthers, that much is indisputable. That being said, Newton did not have a great season last year. The quarterback struggled to find open receivers and ended up getting benched for Sam Darnold down the stretch. He’d probably be better with a full offseason to learn the system, but the fact remains that he is probably a worst-case scenario at this point in time.
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