The Panthers are meeting with Derek Carr at the Combine, joining the Jets and Saints in doing so. While Carolina is entertaining the prospect of signing the longtime Raiders starter, the team’s price range is believed to check in lower than what Carr will command.
As a result, the Panthers are circling back to one of their own quarterbacks. The team has begun talks with Sam Darnold about returning, David Newton of ESPN.com tweets. These can be classified as preliminary discussions, but Darnold would make sense for a team that uses its first-round pick on a quarterback.
Darnold is only 25 but has been given plenty of chances to show he is a franchise-caliber passer. The former No. 3 overall pick has already made 55 starts. Seventeen of those came with Carolina over the past two seasons. Matt Rhule pushed for the 2021 Darnold trade. Despite Rhule now camping in Nebraska, the Panthers are interested in keeping him. Darnold would represent a bridge option for a Panthers team that has been steadily connected to using its No. 9 overall pick on a QB or trading up for one.
Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo reside as the top available free agents — at least, among those actually expected to hit the market. Geno Smith would join them near the top of the QB market, but the Seahawks are not expected to let the reigning Comeback Player of the Year walk. The Giants are not letting Daniel Jones walk. Both he and Lamar Jackson will be franchise-tagged absent extensions surfacing before Monday’s tag deadline. Aaron Rodgers‘ status looms over all of this, but this year’s QB trade market does not appear as rich as 2022’s.
The market for bridge options will give the Panthers some choices. Baker Mayfield resides on this tier but should not be viewed as a candidate to come back to Charlotte. But Andy Dalton, Marcus Mariota, Jacoby Brissett, Teddy Bridgewater, Gardner Minshew and Carson Wentz are free agents or will be soon. This array of lower-tier starter options should make the players here fairly affordable, despite the QB demand that exists almost every year.
Darnold closed last season with a career-high 48.3 QBR, a mark much higher than his Panthers debut season (33.2), and a career-best passer rating (92.6). The Panthers fell short in their quest to rebound from a rocky start and make the playoffs, but Darnold showed some degree of promise after replacing Mayfield. Carolina’s offensive line restocking effort aided Darnold, as did the team’s D’Onta Foreman-led ground attack. Darnold still completed just 58.6% of his passes and should not be considered a multiyear option. But a team preparing to retool around a first-round pick could certainly do worse than adding the sixth-year vet as a stopgap.
After entering last season with Darnold, Mayfield and P.J. Walker on their roster, the Panthers have only Matt Corral and Jacob Eason under contract for 2023. Neither can be considered a viable starting option, pointing to Carolina exploring vets.
13 comments on “Panthers, Sam Darnold Begin Talks”
Sam Darnold might be a good fit in San Francisco. They have lots of weapons and an offensive scheme that can cover up a lot of flaws.
I think Purdy is a better QB than Darnold, though. If I’m the SF GM, and I want some insurance for Purdy, I’d rather have Mariota for the same reasons you mentioned.
Darnold with Shanahan might look a lot better than the Darnold we’ve seen, too.
Just give Darnold an offensive line and we may see something different. I don’t think he’s had one since college.
Matt Corral hasn’t even started in the regular season. He could be “considered a viable starting option.”
Funny how Matt was rated one of the top 5 in the draft last year, got thrown into a terrible situation behind an offensive line that hasn’t seen a regular season snap. If his foot has healed then give him a look. Beats any no guarantee results from those in the draft.
He was top 5 in a very weak QB class, and the injury that took him out his whole rookie year wasn’t his first. He also ran a college offense that didn’t teach him to work through progressions, so we still haven’t seen him play QB the way he’ll need to in the NFL. He’s still an interesting prospect, but he’s not higher upside or probability than the top guys in this draft.
Who was drafted ahead of Corral? Pickett, Howell, Willis? So yeah he was a top 5 QB but no one was sold on any of those guys. Maybe Corral becomes a viable backup but this QB class is as bad as the EJ Manuel-Geno Smith- Mike Glennon draft.
I doubt Bridgewater will come back to the Panthers, though he might be a slight upgrade over Darnold. I’ve got a feeling the Panthers will stick with Darnold though and possibly sign Wentz to compete with him.
If I were Wentz I would sign with SF and let Shannahan help get him back on track. Frank Reich already coached him in Philly and Indianapolis. Not sure he would want him in Charlotte as well. I would think he would prefer Nick Foles over Wentz.
Nobody is signing Wentz
“Talks” is probably an ambitious description as the conversation will most likely amount to “Goodbye and good luck Sam”.
With the exception of last year, Darnold had to play behind the worst rated OLines in the league. NY 2018-2020 & Carolina 2021. No running games and few weapons. 4 different head coaches, 5 offensive coordinators and he was the youngest starter in NFL history. I can’t think of worse circumstances to develop as a young QB. Give him a stable coaching situation, average pass protection, and a running game he’ll be fine. He’s only 25