The Panthers are expected to use their newly acquired first-overall pick on a quarterback, meaning their young signal-callers could be available via trade. According to NFL Network’s Mike Giardi (on Twitter), the Panthers would consider moving Matt Corral in a trade.
The Ole Miss product was selected in the third round of the 2022 draft, with the Panthers intending to bring him along slowly while hoping that one of their veterans could provide at least a season-plus of production. Neither Sam Darnold nor Baker Mayfield ended up working out for the organization, and the Panthers also made it clear that P.J. Walker wasn’t in their plans.
Even with the inconsistent QB depth chart, the Panthers were unable to get a look at their rookie, as Corral suffered a preseason Lisfranc injury that knocked him out for the season. The team could have repeated their plan in 2023 by pairing the young QB with one or two veterans, but the organization instead decided to go all-in with the first-overall pick. While it remains to be seen who will ultimately be selected, it’s clear that the Panthers will hand that unknown rookie QB the keys to the offense.
Considering Corral’s college resume, a team would surely make a run at the QB. He earned second-team All-SEC honors in 2021 after finishing with 20 touchdowns vs. five interceptions while adding another 11 touchdowns on the ground. Per Giardi, the cost wouldn’t be high to acquire the QB, and it’s unlikely the Panthers will be able to recoup their third-round investment.
Carolina is placing Darnold on IR, Joe Person of The Athletic tweets. Darnold will be sidelined for the team’s first four games. Following that, he is expected to re-emerge as Mayfield’s primary backup. This move opens up a roster spot for kicker Eddy Pineiro, who agreed to terms with the Panthers on Wednesday.
For now, P.J. Walker will play that role. The Panthers are not planning to pursue an upgrade on their backup of the past two seasons, according to Person (subscription required). While Walker was staring at the prospect of being cut earlier in camp, when the Panthers had Darnold and Matt Corral healthy, injuries have worked in the former XFL 2.0 standout’s favor. Corral underwent surgery to repair his Lisfranc injury this week, per GM Scott Fitterer. The rookie third-rounder is on season-ending IR.
This represents another bad break for Darnold, who suffered a significant shoulder injury last season. That malady prompted the Panthers to reunite with Cam Newton. This year, the team traded a conditional fifth-round pick for Mayfield, who had beaten out Darnold before his latest injury. Darnold, however, remains attached to a higher salary than Carolina’s new starter, who took a pay cut off his fifth-year option salary to facilitate a trade from Cleveland.
Darnold, 25, will go through a fifth straight season missing at least three games. He will be down at least four this year — in terms of suiting up; he may not participate in other games — but the ex-Jets starter also battled shoulder trouble in 2020, contracted mononucleosis in 2019 and suffered a foot sprain as a rookie. The former USC star entered this season having missed 10 career games.
Matt Corrallanded on the Panthers’ IR Tuesday, ending his rookie season before it started. The Lisfranc injury the third-round pick suffered will require surgery, Matt Rhule said. The Panthers had planned to carry Corral as their third-string quarterback during what was to be a developmental year, with the team wanting him to add muscle to his 205-pound frame and obviously learn a pro-style offense, per Joe Person of The Athletic. Because of Corral’s injury, the Panthers’ roster math may change. The team may no longer be preparing to carry three quarterbacks, Person notes (subscriptionrequired). This news would pertain to P.J. Walker, the former XFL 2.0 standout who has been Carolina’s backup the past two seasons. Walker, who has won both his regular-season starts but holds a career 51.6 passer rating, struggled in the Panthers’ second preseason game. The 27-year-old passer could be stashed on the practice squad — behind starterBaker Mayfield and backup Sam Darnold — if he clears waivers in the event of a cut before next week’s deadline.
Here is the latest from the NFC South:
Shifting to the division’s most famous quarterback, Tom Brady is now back with the Buccaneers. The all-time great missed nearly two weeks of training camp. Family time has circulated as the reasoning behind Brady’s absence, which coincidentally occurred while the team held joint practices against the Dolphins, and Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com notes Brady and wife Gisele Bundchen spent time at an exclusive Bahamas resort. Not a bad arrangement, though not many players could swing such a mid-camp trip. Brady has not taken questions since the Dolphins scandal broke, but he is back practicing with the Bucs.
During Brady’s time away, the Bucs lost another potential O-line starter. Aaron Stinnie‘s ACL and MCL tears add to a lengthy list of changes to Tampa Bay’s interior O-line. Ali Marpet retired, Alex Cappa signed with the Bengals, and Ryan Jensen suffered what may be a season-ending injury. Jensen, however, may have a late-season return window. The Bucs are not planning to place their starting center on IR, with Albert Breer of SI.com noting the veteran blocker’s “complicated” injury could have him available for the playoffs. For now, the team will keep that door open. That would mean carrying Jensen onto the 53-man roster and then placing him on IR.
For now, the Bucs have 2021 third-round pick Robert Hainsey (31 offensive snaps last season) at center and would have either second-round rookieLuke Goedeke or former UDFA Nick Leverett (two career games; zero starts) at left guard opposite Shaq Mason. Goedeke would be the likely in-house solution, Greg Auman of The Athletic notes. Hainsey, who was working at guard earlier this offseason, is unlikely to be moved off his new center post, Auman adds. This would point to the Bucs, if they feel the need arises, looking at the guard market for a veteran. Ereck Flowers, Quinton Spain and James Carpenter are among the top options.
While the Bucs are not believed to be actively searching, the loss of two veteran blockers could be rather important in what could be Brady’s final season. The Ravens could be a trade option, Auman offers, holding a potential guard surplus featuring Tyre Phillips, Ben Cleveland and Ben Powers. The team is unlikely to keep all three.
Tuesday marked the day teams were forced to cut down from 85 to 80 players. Here are the moves teams made made to reach the new maximum. Players who land on the reserve/PUP or reserve/NFI list must miss at least the first four regular-season games.
4:02pm: The rookie passer was not expected to vie for the starting job this season, but it is possible he will not be healthy enough to play in 2022. Corral’s foot injury is of the troublesome Lisfranc variety, Matt Rhule said Saturday, calling it “significant,” Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. Early indications are it will be a season-ending malady.
9:28am: Matt Corral exited last night’s preseason contest against the Patriots with a foot injury. Joe Person of The Athletic tweets that the rookie quarterback underwent X-rays after having his foot stepped on. ESPN’s Davis Newton tweets that Corral was seen leaving the stadium in a walking boot, which is “not a good sign.”
In his second professional game, Corral looked a bit more polished than his debut (when he completed only one of nine pass attempts). While alternating quarters with PJ Walker, the rookie ended up completing nine of his 15 attempts for 58 yards, although he didn’t guide the Panthers to a touchdown while he was under center. The QB also added six yards on three carries. Coach Matt Rhule explained that he wanted his rook to play against New England’s starters and backups, an experience that he described as invaluable.
“What we don’t want to do is come out (in) these games and make it easy on him, because he’s a two [or] he’s a three,” Rhule said (via the team’s website). “We want to give them opportunities to show, ‘Hey, I can play for you.’ So (we are) preparing them for their opportunity. I thought Matt did a lot of good things, and there’s a lot to learn from on the tape.”
Corral earned second-team All-SEC honors in 2021 after completing 67.9 percent of his passes for 20 touchdowns vs. five interceptions. He also added another 614 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. Thanks to this performance, the Panthers selected the Ole Miss product in the third round of this year’s draft, making him the 4th QB off the board.
Considering his draft status, Corral was expected to slide in third on the Panthers depth chart behind some combination of Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold. However, if Corral’s injury ends up being serious, this could open the door for Walker to make the roster as a QB3.
The Panthers are the latest team to come to terms with one of the few remaining unsigned rookies around the league. Carolina has signed third-round quarterback MattCorral, per a team announcement.
Corral took over as the starter at Ole Miss in 2019, but it was during the two subsequent seasons that he boosted his draft stock considerably. During those campaigns, he threw for a combined 6,670 yards with a completion percentage of 69.5% and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 49:18. Showcasing his rushing ability, he added 1,103 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground.
Those totals helped the Rebels to a 10-3 season, and led to Corral finishing seventh in Heisman voting in 2021. Concerns about his frame (six-foot-one, 205 pounds) and ability to adapt to a more complex NFL scheme led to him being viewed as a Day 2 pick, as several other members of this year’s underwhelming QB class were. After Desmond Ridderand Malik Willistaken in the third round, the Panthers traded up to select Corral.
Since then, the Panthers have, of course, added Baker Mayfieldto their QB room. The team intends to keep both he and Sam Darnoldon the roster, so 2022 will be seen as a redshirt season for Corral. If he develops over time, he could provide the team with at least a long-term backup at a position which has been in flux for several years.
With Corral signed, here is the final breakdown of the Panthers’ 2022 class:
It’s been two years since the Panthers moved on from Cam Newton, and the organization’s QB room has seen plenty of change in that short amount of time. Besides the financial commitments to free agent additions like Teddy Bridgewater and Newton (for a second stint), the Panthers have also invested plenty of draft capital into the position. Over the past 15 months, the organization has effectively used a second-round pick, third-round pick, fourth-round pick, fifth-round pick, and sixth-round pick to construct their current depth chart of Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, and Matt Corral.
Of course, the Panthers have rostered plenty of additional signal-callers since settling on their current trio. Over the past two years, the Panthers have started four different QBs, and 13 different quarterbacks have made their way through the organization (either via the active roster or practice squad). These 13 different QBs have accounted for 18 different transactions over the past 28 months.
We went back to the 2020 offseason and listed all of the Panthers QB transactions below:
Many expected there to be an early run on quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft. Although nine passers did hear their names called in the three-day event, only Steelers’ selection Kenny Pickett was a Day 1 pick. With first-round hopefuls such as Desmond Ridder (Falcons), Malik Willis (Titans), and Matt Corral (Panthers) all falling to the later days of the draft, what does the 2022 NFL season look like for each rookie?
When looking at the potential debut dates for each quarterback, it was determined that only one quarterback was essentially a lock to play in their rookie season, according to ESPN’s David Newton, and it isn’t the first-round pick. When breaking down the percentage chance for each quarterback to start in Week 1, the percentage chance for each rookie to sit all season, and the best prediction for when each player will make their first start, Newton gave Carolina’s Corral a zero-percent chance of sitting all season. The next closest was Ridder, who was given a 20% chance of sitting all season, in the case that Mariota solidifies himself as Atlanta’s starter and keeps them near playoff contention.
Corral shares a position room with incumbents Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker, who both failed to impress in starts last year. Even after bringing back Cam Newton, the Panthers didn’t have a single quarterback on their roster complete at least 60% of their passes or throw more touchdowns than they did interceptions. With Carolina seeing such abysmal quarterback play last year, there is absolutely justification in the assertion that the Panthers are almost guaranteed to give Corral a look at some point in the season.
Here are a few other rumors from around the NFC, starting with a note on another rookie quarterback:
Also a first-round hopeful at points in the pre-draft process, Washington’s first selection of the fifth-round this year, Sam Howell, is potentially on the opposite end of the spectrum from Corral. Howell can probably be considered a guarantee to sit his entire rookie season for the Commanders. A couple weeks before deciding to select Howell, Washington traded second- and seventh-round picks to the Colts in exchange for veteran quarterback Carson Wentz. Wentz will likely take the starting job in DC with last year’s starter, Taylor Heinicke, filling the role of highly qualified backup. Heinicke, though, is in a contract year and drafting Howell provides the Commanders with the option of letting Heinicke walk if the price isn’t right or the need isn’t there. Unfortunately for Howell, this likely means he won’t see the field anytime soon. Fortunately for Howell, he’ll have the old-fashioned approach of sitting, learning, and developing as a new NFL quarterback.
The 49ers have been trying for months to work some trade-value out of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. An intriguing trade possibility was hatched during today’s episode of the 49ers Talk podcast involving another team that been looking for trade partners this offseason. NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco and Jennifer Lee Chan discussed the idea of trading Garoppolo to the Browns. Cleveland has been attempting to dump Baker Mayfield off for some value maybe even more desperately than San Francisco has with Garoppolo and offseason trade acquisition Deshaun Watson could be staring down a year-long suspension. Behind Mayfield and Garoppolo, the Browns roster Jacoby Brissett and Joshua Dobbs. While, at times, the Browns have boasted confidence in Brissett should they need him, that confidence may have been based on the assumption that Watson would only miss a couple games. A one-year suspension may have Cleveland entertaining the possibility of acquiring their fourth new quarterback of the offseason.
At an extremely unlikely time for such moves to be happening, the Bears fired director of player engagementLaMar Campbell this weekend, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Campbell had been with Chicago since 2015 and was most recently a member of the committee that was assembled as the team searched for a new general manager and head coaching tandem. Not only did Campbell have the trust of the owners and committee, but he was highly respected in the locker room, as well. The timing is rough for Campbell as, at this point in the offseason, most teams have already completed their spring cleaning and hiring of their support staffs.
Without a long-term quarterback plan since injuries began to keep Cam Newton off the field, the Panthers have attempted to land big fish at the position for a bit. But they have been unable to do so, leaving the team with a major question at the game’s premier position in a rather important year for Matt Rhule.
Carolina made serious efforts to trade for Matthew Stafford, offering a first-round pick and change, and Deshaun Watson, whom the team was linked to for over a year. Neither panned out, with the Rams swooping in late for a player who has since become a Super Bowl-winning QB. Although the Falcons were believed to be the second-place finishers for Watson, the Panthers also balked at the $230MM guarantee the Browns authorized. An inquiry into Russell Wilson‘s status went nowhere, with the longtime Seahawks QB prioritizing a Denver move.
The Panthers still have Sam Darnold, whom they acquired for three draft choices — including a second-round pick — last year. Darnold, 25, struggled through an injury-interrupted 2021 season, putting his status as Carolina’s 2022 QB in doubt. But the Panthers, upon trading for the former Jets top-three pick, exercised the scuffling passer’s fifth-year option. Darnold is guaranteed $18.9MM this year, and Rhule has praised his work this offseason.
The primary reason for the frequent Carolina-centric headlines this offseason, Baker Mayfield, 27, remains on the team’s radar. An early report this offseason indicated neither the Panthers nor Mayfield were on-board with a trade that moved the former No. 1 overall pick to Charlotte, but the NFC South team has come around. The Panthers have been by far the team most closely connected to Mayfield, having engaged with the Browns in trade talks during the draft and resuming them recently.
How Mayfield’s fully guaranteed $18.9MM salary would be divvied up would seem a somewhat minor hiccup, at least compared to the prospect of making a QB upgrade, but that component has stalled the talks for several weeks. The Browns were believed to offering to pay barely $3MM of Mayfield’s salary during the mid-draft talks, but they have since upped that figure to around $10MM. The Panthers have wanted the Browns to pay nearly $14MM of the figure. Cleveland holds the NFL’s most cap space, with Carolina at No. 2. It would seemingly benefit the Panthers to make this deal soon to give Mayfield as much time as possible to learn Ben McAdoo‘s playbook, and the Seahawks are lurking in the event Mayfield is cut.
Jimmy Garoppolo looms as an option as well, but Carolina is not believed to be interested in trading for him. The four-plus-year 49ers starter is tied to a $26.9MM base salary — one that becomes fully guaranteed in Week 1. The Panthers would be interested if the 49ers cut him, though the 30-year-old passer is coming off a three-injury season — one culminating with a throwing-shoulder surgery that paused his trade market.
Teams can certainly hold out to see if the 49ers — who have Deebo Samuel and Nick Bosa extensions on their docket but hold little in cap space — blink on Garoppolo’s salary ahead of his guarantee vesting. But the Panthers waiting that long runs the risk of Garoppolo not joining the team until just before the regular season. That would not put him in good position to succeed. Although frequently scrutinized, Garoppolo did rank 12th in QBR in 2019. That Super Bowl-qualifying campaign also marked his only healthy season in the past four.
Ranking 29th in 2021 QBR, Darnold trailed a hobbled Mayfield (27th) last season. Mayfield’s best QBR season (2020, when he ranked 10th) outpaces Darnold’s by a notable margin. A 25th-place finish in 2019 is Darnold’s best mark, and although he has not been given a favorable draw in four seasons, the USC product teeters on the bust cliff. That said, Mayfield’s 2020 is the outlier in his past three seasons, a span that included a 2019 regression and the injury-plagued 2021 that is leading him out of Cleveland.
The Panthers have outfitted Darnold with a better offensive line this year, and a healthy Christian McCaffrey would make a difference. But are Darnold (or third-rounder Matt Corral, who profiles as a longer-term project) and healthy versions of Mayfield and Garoppolo close enough in ability to venture into training camp without Carolina making a move? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts on this situation in the comments section.
But Mayfield is still generating support from some inside the NFC South squad’s building, Person adds. This has reached the point where the Panthers have resumed discussions with the Browns on a trade for the fifth-year quarterback, Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports tweets.
Both teams begin minicamp Tuesday. Rhule said last week the Panthers would evaluate their quarterback position after minicamp but indicated a free agent at any position would not need to be acquired too long before training camp to pick up new OC Ben McAdoo‘s system. Days later, some semblance of urgency exists on the Panthers’ side on the Mayfield front, Jones adds (via Twitter). This stance would make sense, with Mayfield having a better chance to bounce back in Carolina with additional time to learn McAdoo’s offense ahead of training camp.
The Panthers having checked in on Russell Wilson and aggressively pursued Deshaun Watson — a year after making a strong offer for Matthew Stafford — makes the prospect of running it back with Darnold (31st in 2021 QBR) tough to buy. But Rhule has bolted on the team’s previous starter (Cam Newton, Teddy Bridgewater) in each of his first two offseasons. And the team did make upgrades along its offensive line, which would stand to aid Darnold in his second Panthers slate. But, through four seasons, Mayfield has been a far more viable starter than Darnold. For a coach on one of the NFL’s hottest seats, adding a quarterback at a much cheaper cost than it took to land Bridgewater or Darnold would seemingly check out.
The Browns have waited for the Panthers’ Darnold-Corral competition to induce them to return to the Mayfield table, but money still divides the teams sitting first and second in cap space. During the draft, the Browns were barely prepared to pay $3MM of Mayfield’s $18.9MM fully guaranteed salary. The Panthers wanted them to pick up at least $13MM. Cleveland appears to have moved closer to the latter figure, and the more the AFC North team pays, the better the draft compensation would be. Still, Carolina should not be expected to give up much for Mayfield.
The Browns would be stuck with nearly the full salary if they release Mayfield, which has long been a non-starter. The Seahawks have been monitoring this situation for months, but lately, the only Seattle-Mayfield connections pertain to a potential release. The latest reports of Panthers-Browns talks could motivate the Seahawks — amid a Geno Smith–Drew LockQB competition — to reconsider their trade stance. For now, Carolina remains the frontrunner for Mayfield.