Panthers Rumors

Panthers Considered Trading Up For QB

Connected to Deshaun Watson and Matthew Stafford this offseason, the Panthers moved to Sam Darnold. They sent three draft choices (two in 2022) for the former Jets top-five draftee, who is on track to replace Teddy Bridgewater next season.

But the Panthers, whose quest to land a franchise quarterback was no secret this offseason, also considered making the kind of move the 49ers did. Carolina held internal discussions about vaulting up the draft board for a quarterback, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. However, the franchise that entered the 2020 offseason in rebuilding mode deemed the price to do so too extreme for its present situation.

[RELATED: Panthers Give Bridgewater Permission To Seek Trade]

It cost the 49ers their No. 12 pick, a 2021 third-rounder and 2022 and 2023 firsts to climb up nine spots to No. 3. The Panthers, who resumed Darnold talks with the Jets in Columbus while there for Justin Fields‘ first pro day, do not boast the roster talent the 49ers do at this point. Dealing away two future first-rounders for this draft’s second- or third-best quarterback, though the Jets are not believed to have received a firm offer for No. 2, would cost the Panthers chances at adding long-term starters. That said, Carolina did offer its No. 8 pick, Bridgewater and a fifth-rounder for Stafford in January.

With legal issues ensnaring Watson, his top would-be suitor will have Darnold under contract for two more seasons — on a rookie salary in 2021 and an fifth-year option price ($18.9MM) in 2022 — unless the sides agree to an extension. Darnold’s presence should not take the Panthers out of the running for Watson down the road, and Breer notes they should be expected to draft a quarterback at No. 8 — should one they like fall that far. Mac Jones and, to a lesser degree, Trey Lance have been the passers connected to the 49ers at 3. Lance and Fields seemingly have the best chance of falling to the eighth spot.

The Panthers did not want to part with their second- or third-round picks in this year’s draft for Darnold, Breer notes, so they and the Jets settled on a package that included a 2022 second-rounder as the centerpiece. The Panthers were offering their 2021 fifth-rounder, the same one they dangled as a Stafford throw-in, but swapped that out for a 2022 fourth to sweeten their offer to the Jets. The sixth-rounder Carolina gave up this year was a compensatory pick, the lowest of the team’s three 2021 sixths.

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Details On A.J. Bouye’s Panthers Deal

At this point, A.J. Bouye is best known for signing an ill-fated five-year, $67.5MM deal with the Jaguars back in 2017. When the Panthers picked him up earlier this month, it cost them a whole lot less. Bouye’s two-year deal is worth just $7MM, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link).

[RELATED: Broncos Expressed Interest In Sam Darnold]

Bouye, 30 in August, profiles as low-risk, high reward signing for the Panthers. He didn’t find much of a market this year after suffering a dislocated shoulder to start 2020. Bouye returned to action for the Broncos and started in seven games, but a six-game PED suspension in December brought his season to an end. He still has two games to go on that ban, so the Panthers won’t see him in live action until Week 3.

The Raiders were the only other known suitor for Bouye, which allowed the Panthers to get him on an affordable contract. In Carolina, he’ll support a young group headlined by Donte Jackson and Troy Pride Jr.

In other Panthers news, we recently learned that the Broncos were in on Sam Darnold before he landed in Carolina. Meanwhile, ex-starter Teddy Bridgewater has been given permission to seek trades.

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PFR Poll: Which QB Will Be Traded Next?

The NFL’s quarterback carousel continued earlier this week when the Jets finally traded former third-overall pick Sam Darnold to the Panthers. The 23-year-old became the fifth quarterback to switch teams via trade this offseason:

While teams have already shifted focus from veteran acquisitions to the draft, that doesn’t mean we won’t see another QB trade. Sure, it takes two to tango, and a number of teams already have already solidified their quarterback situation (or they will in the upcoming draft). Still, teams like the Patriots, Broncos, Bears, Saints, and Washington could be in the market for a signal-caller depending on what happens with the draft.

So who could be available? We know one name is definitively on the block: Teddy Bridgewater. Following the Panthers’ acquisition of Darnold, the front ofice gave the 2020 starter permission to seek a trade. It seems like a trade is inevitable, with reports indicating that multiple teams have reached out to Carolina about the veteran. Many of these teams are apparently eyeing Bridgewater as a backup, which could complicate a trade if the veteran is hunting for a suitor who will let hm start. Further, interested teams would also like to rework Bridgewater’s contract, adding another hurdle to negotiations.

It was widely assumed that Jimmy Garoppolo would be on the trade block after the 49ers made a blockbuster trade for the No. 3 pick. However, the organization appears to be playing hard ball. After declaring that the veteran would be sticking around San Francisco for the 2021 season, the 49ers are reportedly seeking a first-rounder for Jimmy G. This could obviously just be leveraging via the media, and the 49ers will be hard pressed to find a team that will give up that type of draft capital and inherit Garoppolo’s hefty deal. Either way, the rumors will surely persist, especially if Garoppolo’s former team, the Patriots, roll into the regular season with Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham as their top quarterbacks.

What about Gardner Minshew? The former sixth-rounder took a step back from a team-record perspective in 2020, but he still proved to be a capable game manager, connecting on 66.1-percent of his passes and tossing 16 touchdowns vs. only five interceptions. The Jaguars will presumably take Trevor Lawrence will the first-overall pick in the upcoming draft, relegating Minshew to a backup role. Minshew has a low salary and plenty of upside, so Jacksonville won’t just give him away. However, if a team is willing to pony up for the mustached quarterback, the Jaguars will probably listen. For what it’s worth, we heard back in March that the Jaguars weren’t shopping Minshew “at this point” in time.

Those three quarterbacks appear to be the most realistic trade targets, but there are plenty of additional quarterbacks who have lingered in trade rumors. Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson were the biggest names thrown around this offseason, but it’s unlikely either player is dealt any time soon (Wilson because he’s a franchise quarterback and the Seahawks aren’t dumb, Watson because of the ongoing sexual misconduct allegations against him (and the Texans prior refusal to trade him despite demands)). Some less sexy names include Nick Foles, who could be displaced in Chicago after the Bears signed Andy Dalton. Matt Ryan, Derek Carr, and Drew Lock have also been tossed around, but it’s unlikely any of those players switch teams.

So that leads to our question: who will be the next quarterback to be traded? Let us know if we forgot anyone in the comments.

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Jets Notes: Douglas, Darnold, Wilson

Joe Douglas didn’t take the Sam Darnold trade lightly, and the Jets GM acknowledged how difficult it was telling the quarterback that he had been traded to the Panthers.

“[T]he swallow-hard moment for me was just making that call to Sam,” Douglas told SI’s Albert Breer. “You know how much work and dedication he’s put in the last three years here, how many rough situations he’s been through, and never wavered with his confidence. Still, when we had the call, I know in his heart of hearts that he feels he was the right guy to turn this franchise around. I just have so much admiration for how he carries himself.”

During the interview with Breer, Douglas revealed that the front office took their time determining how to proceed at quarterback. While the team would have normally completed their scouting much earlier in the offseason, they didn’t get a chance to see the top quarterback prospects in person until late March. Eventually, the organization decided that they’d feel comfortable taking a signal-caller with the No. 2 pick.

“I don’t know how every team approaches a quarterback [evaluation], but I’ve always thought it was a golden rule—you don’t ever take a quarterback until you stand near or next to a guy and watch him throw the football,” Douglas said. “None of the top brass were able to get out to a BYU game this year. There were no all-star games, no combine. You could see Mac Jones at the Senior Bowl. But other than that, your only opportunity to stand there and watch them throw was at a pro day.”

We explored some of the GM’s other soundbites earlier tonight, including the fact that the Jets had a competitive offer for Darnold earlier in the offseason.

Some more notes out of New York:

  • Joseph Person and Connor Hughes of The Athletic provided a detailed timeline of the Darnold trade, dating back to Jets season-ending loss to the Patriots in early January. Among the notable revelations from the article was the fact that the Panthers starting offer for the quarterback was a fourth-round pick, while the Jets were initially requesting a first-rounder (even if it was conditional). Douglas considered holding out until after the draft in pursuit of that first, but he ultimately decided to avoid the risk of the Panthers pivoting to a rookie or another veteran quarterback.
  • BYU quarterback Zach Wilson is the favorite to be selected second overall by the Jets. Wilson underwent shoulder surgery back in 2019, but NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets that the team continues to have no concern about the shoulder, especially after they got positive news from a recent physical. Based on advice from “trusted medical sources,” the organization has “zero issues about Wilson’s shoulder,” per RapSheet.
  • The 2020 sixth-round pick that the Panthers sent to the Jets in the Darnold trade is a compensatory selection, according to ESPN’s Rich Cimini (on Twitter). That pick comes in at No. 226 overall.
  • We learned earlier tonight that the Jets re-signed cornerback Bennett Jackson. The 2014 sixth-rounder didn’t appear in a regular season game until the 2019 season, when he appeared in six games with the Jets and Ravens. He appeared in four games this past season for New York, collecting a single tackle.

Broncos Expressed Interest In Sam Darnold

Add another team to the list of organizations that apparently expressed interest in Sam Darnold. Albert Breer of SI.com writes that the Broncos had touched base with the Jets about a potential trade for the quarterback. However, the reporter described Denver’s interest in the former third-overall pick as “tepid.”

[RELATED: 49ers, Washington Expressed Interest In Sam Darnold]

We heard last month that the Broncos weren’t interested in Darnold, although that report indicated that the organization’s lack of interest was more about the asking price (a second rounder) than the player. The Jets were presumably eyeing Denver’s pick at No. 40; Darnold was ultimately traded to the Panthers for a deal that was highlighted by a 2022 second-round pick.

Of course, in hindsight, it’s not a huge surprise that the Broncos reached out to the Jets. For starters, going into the 2018 draft, previous Broncos GM (and current president of football operations) John Elway was interested in selecting the quarterback. Further, the organization has seemingly been on the hunt for a quarterback all offseason; the team reportedly showed interest in Matthew Stafford, Deshaun Watson, and Andy Dalton.

Breer provided another interesting note on the Darnold trade, writing that the Jets received an intriguing offer for the quarterback in early March, but the team wasn’t yet convinced that they were going to take a quarterback with the second-overall pick.

“It was a strong offer,” GM Joe Douglas told Breer. “We told them, Look, there’s still a lot of boxes left to check. And we just don’t feel comfortable, in case something happens with one of the top two guys, we don’t want to get caught in a bad situation, like one of two guys fails a physical and then we don’t have Sam. So we didn’t do anything.”

Douglas noted that eight teams ultimately inquired on Darnold, with the Panthers offer eventually emerging from the pack.

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Panthers Give Teddy Bridgewater Permission Seek Trade; Multiple Teams Interested

April 7: Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports that “multiple teams” are interested in trading for Bridgewater (video link). Those clubs are looking at Bridgewater as a top-flight backup and mentor for a younger passer already on (or soon to be on) the roster. Bridgewater, of course, will need to rework his contract to facilitate a deal, and Rapoport — who expects a trade to happen — says the 28-year-old passer could reduce his 2021 pay to a fully-guaranteed $10MM.

April 6: After trading for Sam Darnold, the Panthers have granted Teddy Bridgewater permission to talk with other teams and potentially facilitate a trade (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). The Panthers remain open to keeping the veteran, but they’ll allow him the chance to find a better opportunity elsewhere.

[RELATED: Panthers Trade For Jets’ Sam Darnold]

Bridgewater has two years to go on the three-year, $63MM deal he inked with Carolina just last year. The 28-year-old (29 in November) completed 69% of his passes last year with just 15 touchdown passes. The Panthers have chosen Darnold’s upside over another year with the one-time Vikings star, but he still profiles as a solid stopgap starter or a quality backup for other teams.

It would make little sense for the Panthers to keep Bridgewater — especially at his current price tag. He’s set to earn base salaries of $17MM and $20MM while Darnold is tied to the club through 2022 on his $18.9MM fifth-year option.

The Broncos are one club that could make sense for Bridgewater, especially given GM George Paton’s history with the QB. It’s also possible that the Saints could explore a reunion, adding to the Jameis WinstonTaysom Hill competition.

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Panthers To Sign A.J. Bouye

The Panthers’ recent trade for quarterback Sam Darnold certainly rates as one of the biggest splashes of the offseason, and now the team has turned its attention back to the defensive side of the ball. As Joe Person of The Athletic reports (via Twitter), Carolina has agreed to terms with free agent corner A.J. Bouye. Mike Klis of 9News.com first reported that the two sides were nearing a deal (Twitter link).

The Panthers were a middle-of-the-road outfit in terms of total defense in 2020, and this offseason, new GM Scott Fitterer has brought in Haason Reddick and Morgan Fox to reinforce the pass rush and Denzel Perryman to anchor the middle of the LB corps. Fitterer also inked cornerback Rashaan Melvin to a modest one-year pact, but Bouye is a superior talent if he can himself back on track.

A former UDFA, Bouye became a strong, starting-caliber CB in Houston and parlayed that success into a five-year, $67.5MM contract with the Jaguars in March 2017. He earned his first and only Pro Bowl nod following the 2017 season, a campaign in which he teamed with Jalen Ramsey to form a fearsome cornerback tandem. He picked off six passes that year — which nearly culminated in a Super Bowl appearance — but Jacksonville slipped in the subsequent seasons and elected to trade Bouye to the Broncos last March as part of its rebuilding efforts.

He suffered a dislocated shoulder in Week 1 of the 2020 season and landed on IR, and though he ended up playing in (and starting) seven games, he was hit with a six-game PED suspension in December. He will miss the first two games of 2021 as a result of the ban, and Denver released him earlier this year.

Still, the 29-year-old (30 in August) would be a high-ceiling veteran addition to a CB group currently fronted by youngsters Donte Jackson and Troy Pride Jr. Other than the Panthers, the only team that had reportedly expressed interest in Bouye following his release was the Raiders.

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Panthers To Sign OL Martez Ivey

The Panthers made the big splash of the week by acquiring Sam Darnold from the Jets, but that isn’t the only move they’re making. Carolina is also signing offensive lineman Martez Ivey, his agents told Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

No financial terms were immediately revealed, but it’s a one-year deal for Ivey. A two-time All-SEC player at Florida, Ivey signed with the Patriots as an UDFA back in 2019. He failed to crack New England’s roster, and then spent some time in the XFL in 2020. He wasn’t able to land an NFL job during the pandemic, but is now getting another shot.

The Panthers have been busy with their offensive line this offseason, already signing new projected starters Cameron Erving and Pat Elflein, franchise-tagging Taylor Moton, and re-signing John Miller. Ivey will be another dart throw for a team making low-risk signings to shore up the O-line.

Panthers May Still Draft QB

The Panthers’ quarterback depth chart is pretty loaded at the moment. But, even after trading for Sam Darnold, Panthers GM Scott Fitterer says he’s open to drafting a passer later this month.

[RELATED: Panthers Give Bridgewater Permission Seek Trades]

This doesn’t take out of anything in the draft,” Fitterer said (via the team website). “It doesn’t take us out of taking a quarterback, it doesn’t take us out of taking any position. What we wanted to do going into this draft, through free agency, through this trade with Sam, was to just get rid of all the needs we have. We wanted to get to a place where the roster was in a good spot, and we could take the best available player at number eight. We could always move up, and we could always move back, but this puts us in a position to make the right football decision for this team moving forward.”

Now the backup, Teddy Bridgewater has two years to go on his three-year, $63MM deal. The Panthers have given him the green light to facilitate a trade, so it seems unlikely that he’ll be staying put. Meanwhile, Fitterer has also exercised Darnold’s pricey fifth-year option, tying him to the club through 2022.

Even if the Panthers opt for a QB, they’re unlikely to do it with the No. 8 overall pick. Instead, they’re expected to target a cornerback or an offensive lineman.

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