Sam Darnold

49ers To Sign QB Sam Darnold

John Lynch indicated the 49ers may need to add a veteran quarterback. Rather than seek an experienced backup, the 49ers are landing a veteran starter to join their Brock PurdyTrey Lance QB room.

Sam Darnold is signing with the 49ers, Adam Schefter of tweets. San Francisco will add the former No. 3 overall pick to a one-year deal. The 49ers now have two former No. 3 overall picks in the draft, in Lance and Darnold, though Purdy is the early favorite — depending on his post-surgery timetable — to stick as their starter.

Darnold will follow Josh Rosen as 2018 first-rounders to have joined the 49ers under the Lynch-Kyle Shanahan regime, and it will be interesting to see the former Jets and Panthers starter’s role on his new team.

The 49ers are in an unusual position, with both their top QBs coming off injuries. Lance is expected to be ready to return from his broken ankle by OTAs, but Purdy may not be fully cleared until September. Given the form Lance has shown so far, the 49ers entered free agency in an odd position. Darnold stands to provide intriguing insurance.

The Panthers had begun negotiations to keep Darnold, but their plans changed after pulling the trigger on a blockbuster trade for the No. 1 overall pick. Darnold, 25, will exit Carolina after two seasons. Those two seasons did not produce what the Panthers sought when they traded three draft choices — including a 2022 second-rounder — for him in 2021, but the USC product does bring considerable experience to this Purdy-Lance room largely devoid of it. Darnold has made 55 NFL starts.

During Matt Rhule’s third and final year with the franchise, the Panthers gave Baker Mayfield their starting job out of training camp. Darnold suffered a high ankle sprain late in the preseason but had already lost the job. It took the ex-Jets franchise-QB hopeful until midseason to return, but Darnold regained his starting job. He finished last season with an 8.2 yards-per-attempt number — by far the highest of his career — and threw seven touchdown passes compared to just three interceptions. This came with a 58.6% completion rate, but Darnold looked in better form compared to what he showed for most of the 2022 season.

Purdy did not need Tommy John surgery and is tentatively expected to begin throwing in June. His UCL repair will still mean extensive first-team reps for Lance, reopening the door for the former North Dakota State prospect. Purdy has been expected to hang onto his staring gig, but that cannot be considered a lock given the circumstances. Darnold’s experience may throw another wrench into San Francisco’s mix, which stands to be one of the more fascinating QB rooms in recent memory. It will be interesting to learn the 49ers’ offseason plans for their newest passer.

Panthers, Sam Darnold Begin Talks

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 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.

Derek Carr Aiming For $35MM-Plus Per Year; Panthers View Price As Too Steep?

The Raiders released Derek Carr nearly two weeks ago, and while the veteran quarterback has visited the Saints and Jets thus far, he remains a free agent. Carr is clearly not in a rush to land with a second NFL employer, and a price point has emerged.

Carr’s third Raiders contract paid him just more than $40MM per year, but its construction led to it being a one-year agreement. For his fourth NFL deal, Carr is not demanding it match the AAV the Raiders authorized last year. But Carr is aiming for a contract north of $35MM annually, Dianna Russini of notes (Twitter link).

Last year’s Raiders-Carr agreement also gave him a head-start on free agency, via the guarantee vesting date coming exactly a month before the market opens. But Carr is willing to wait for a team to meet his asking price; he does not need to be the first QB to sign this offseason, per Russini. It would seemingly behoove Carr to sign early, before free agency begins to dramatically alter teams’ budgets. But Daniel Jones signing soon could also strengthen Carr’s stance.

The Giants are not expected to be in play for non-Jones QBs, but the free agent-to-be is asking for a contract at or near the $45MM-per-year mark. Given the gap in accomplishments between Jones and Carr, the Giants giving their 25-year-old QB a deal in the $40MM-AAV range would seem to bolster the latter’s value. Carr is 31, which impacts his stock compared to Jones’, but be should have at least a few more prime years to factor into his negotiations.

No quarterbacks currently sit between the $35MM and $40MM AAV thresholds. Carr and Jones may end up bridging that gap, though it will be interesting to see if the latter stands down and accepts an offer closer to the Giants’ price point than his own. Carr also has the luxury of negotiating with multiple teams; Jones will not, as the Giants plan to use the franchise tag on him absent an extension agreement by March 7. Carr has engaged in talks with teams beyond the Jets and Saints, though those are the big two at the moment. And not much has come out connecting Carr to the Saints since he became a street free agent.

The Jets’ wish list does not appear to have changed. Although mutual interest exists between the Jets and Carr, the team is still waiting on Aaron Rodgers. The four-time MVP, post-darkness retreat, has not alerted the Packers if he wants to retire, return or be traded. An explosive report of the Packers being done with Rodgers certainly caught interested teams’ attention, and an AFC suitor moving on Carr early may not make much sense — unless it was certain Rodgers was off the table or sought a younger arm. The Jets have made no secret they are chasing a veteran, but it does not seem to matter if they acquire a 39-year-old passer or Carr, who will turn 32 this offseason.

Although the Saints are making their usual February cap maneuvers, it will be a challenge for the team to fit the kind of contract Carr seeks on their payroll. The Commanders are not believed to be as eager to pay up for a quarterback as they were last year; Ron Rivera said major funds are unlikely to be used on a QB. Thanks to Tom Brady‘s $35.1MM void-years bill coming due, the Bucs are unlikely to wade into the QB market’s deep waters, either. The Panthers also might not be eyeing such a move. They are interested in Carr to a degree, but David Newton of notes the team is believed to view this price as too steep. Carolina is more likely to re-sign Sam Darnold, or add a similarly priced passer, and further bolster the position in the draft than pay up for Carr.

This growing collection of cautious spenders would not bode well for Carr, who still may be waiting out Rodgers’ decision as far as the Jets are concerned. The rest of the quarterback market will be free to speak with other teams beginning March 13, but the Carr domino should still be expected to fall before that date.

Panthers Expected To Pursue QB Addition This Offseason

JANUARY 1, 2023: David Newton of hears from multiple executives that Darnold is playing himself into a short-term deal worth between $10MM-$12MM per year. Though Carolina’s difficult salary cap situation will be an obvious factor in its quarterback plans this offseason, Newton expects the club to have interest in a reunion if the price is right. Presumably, that would not preclude using a high draft choice on a collegiate passer.

DECEMBER 25, 2022: The 2022 season has seen plenty of turbulence for the Panthers with a coaching change taking place and the team being wrought with uncertainty at the quarterback position. The encouraging play from the team under interim head coach Steve Wilks is unlikely to change their aggressiveness in finding a long-term signal-caller in the coming offseason, though.

Carolina entered this spring with Sam Darnold under contract on his fifth-year option, but they were widely expected to add at the position after the former first-rounder’s underwhelming performance in 2021. That resulted in an active pursuit of Deshaun Watson, though the maligned passer was wary of Matt Rhule‘s uncertain future with the organization. Those concerns proved to be well-placed, as the latter was fired five weeks into the campaign, one which started off in disastrous fashion for the Panthers’ offense in particular.

That brought on criticism for Baker Mayfield, who had been under center for each of those games. Acquired in July from the Browns long after the Panthers’ interest in him became clear, the former No. 1 pick struggled mightily in his first year in Charlotte. That resulted in his being benched for XFL alum P.J. Walker, and – after Darnold’s return from a preseason ankle sprain – dropped to third place on the depth chart.

In a relatively unsurprising move, Mayfield was waived just under three weeks ago, which led to a season-ending starting role for him with the Rams. Darnold, meanwhile, has served as the Panthers’ starter in each of the past four games, a stretch which has included three wins to give the team a chance of winning the NFC South. The potential for a strong finish from the USC alum could lead to a deal keeping him in Carolina, but a new quarterback is still expected to be acquired soon.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano report that owner David Tepper is thought to be eyeing a move which “solve[s] his quarterback room once and for all.” That likely would not entail a long-term extension for Darnold, and 2021 third-rounder Matt Corral has missed his entire rookie campaign due to a Lisfranc injury. The Ole Miss product will therefore be expected to fill in strictly as a backup in 2023, regardless of who emerges as the starter.

With Carolina currently projected to be in a worse cap situation than most in the upcoming offseason, the draft represents the obvious avenue for the team to add a new No. 1 QB. However, Fowler and Graziano’s colleague David Newton notes that Darnold’s play could “open the possibility” the Panthers at least wait until after the first round of April’s draft to select a signal-caller. Carolina’s Day 2 and 3 set of picks was bolstered midseason by the Christian McCaffrey trade, giving them plenty of options with respect to adding at least another developmental passer.

The failed experiment with Mayfield is simply the latest in a long line of moves the Panthers have made in recent years which underline their need for a long-term solution under center. The spring of 2023 will represent another opportunity to solve the issue, with the team’s decision regarding retaining or replacing Wilks likely to have a significant impact on their plans.

Sam Darnold To Remain Panthers’ Starter In Week 14

Sam Darnold made his season debut during yesterday’s win over the Broncos, serving as the third different option under center for the Panthers in 2022. His tenure back in the No. 1 role will not be a one-off, however.

Interim head coach Steve Wilks said on Sunday that Darnold will get the nod once again in Week 14 when Carolina plays Seattle following their bye. The announcement comes after Wilks had indicated his intention to have him see game action in 2022, which was confirmed with the Week 12 start. The team’s No. 1 option for most of last season, Darnold was long seen as a replacement candidate this past offseason.

To little surprise, the team brought in Baker Mayfield from the Browns through a trade the team had been eyeing well before it was consummated in July. It was the former No. 1 overall pick who won out Carolina’s training camp competition, but he struggled mightily before going down with a high ankle sprain. With Darnold having suffered the same injury in the preseason and being unavailable, Carolina turned to P.J. Walker as their starter for a stretch.

Mayfield was thrust back into the No. 1 role during Week 11, a 13-3 loss to the Ravens during which he threw a pair of late interceptions. Darnold’s return to health allowed him to guide the team’s offense yesterday, though, and help lead them to a 23-10 win. The USC product competed just 11 passes for 164 yards and one touchdown, but generated a passer rating of 103.8 and will have the opportunity to build on that performance this week.

With both Darnold and fellow 2018 draftee Mayfield pending free agents, the closing weeks of the season will be highly important for both of them from a financial perspective. Solid performances from the former could help erase the struggles of the past in Charlotte (and help earn him at least consideration for a deal to compete with injured rookie Matt Corral for a 2023 roster spot), which could also have an effect on the sidelines. With Wilks reportedly making a case to remain the team’s permanent HC, plenty will be at stake as the calendar flips to December despite the Panthers’ 4-8 record.

Panthers To Start Sam Darnold In Week 12

Steve Wilks said last week he wanted Sam Darnold to see some action. While the Carolina interim HC was not yet certain when that would come, clarity emerged Tuesday.

Darnold will start against the Broncos in Week 12. The Panthers are pivoting to their primary 2021 starter, who has missed all of this season due to the high ankle sprain he suffered during training camp. This will be Darnold’s 50th career start.

Despite Baker Mayfield coming over in July, completing a long-rumored trade, Darnold remains the Panthers’ highest-paid quarterback. He is tied to an $18.9MM fifth-year option. The team also paid more to land Darnold than it did to acquire Mayfield, sending the Jets second-, fourth- and sixth-round picks for the former No. 3 overall selection. Injuries have marred Darnold’s Carolina run, but Mayfield beat him out for the Panthers’ QB1 gig during training camp.

Darnold, 25, has disappointed as a starter with the Jets and Panthers. Though, the USC product did have Carolina at 3-0 last season. Mayfield has enjoyed a better career than the player chosen two spots after him in 2018, nearly winning Offensive Rookie of the Year acclaim and then leading the Browns to the playoffs two seasons later. But he has been unable to recapture that form since a shoulder injury altered his Cleveland path in September 2021. Mayfield’s 17.8 QBR is well south of every other qualified passer this season.

The Panthers will start three quarterbacks for a second straight season, sending in Darnold after Mayfield and P.J. Walker stints. Carolina will also start a different QB for a third straight game. Although Darnold suffered his high ankle sprain first, his injury might have been the most significant. Initially given a four- to six-week recovery timetable, Darnold did not come off IR until before Week 10. Mayfield returned not long after suffering his high ankle malady; Walker is still recovering from his. While Mayfield reclaimed his QB1 gig against the Ravens, the Panthers scored three points.

In 2021, Darnold finished 29th in QBR — third from the bottom — during a season in which a shoulder injury took him off the field for a stretch. A fractured scapula shut down Darnold in early November of last year. Carolina’s season was already going south by that point, with injuries — most notably to Christian McCaffrey — leading to the team losing four straight after its 3-0 opening. Darnold finished 4-7 as a starter and closed his fourth NFL campaign with a 9-to-13 touchdown pass-to-interception ratio. Because Mayfield has struggled, the Panthers will give their previous QB1 another chance. Murmurs about Darnold eventually reclaiming the gig were emerging by mid-October, when Mayfield suffered his ankle injury.

Darnold, Mayfield and Walker are all set for free agency at season’s end. Matt Rhule drove the trades for both Darnold and Mayfield, and he coached Walker at Temple. It is safe to say the Panthers’ quarterback room will look considerably different next year. For now, Darnold will have a chance to rebound to some degree ahead of what would be his first free agency crack.

Panthers QB Notes: Darnold, Mayfield, Rhule, Herbert, Stafford, Tepper, Watson

Although the Panthers are starting Baker Mayfield in Week 11, they want to see Sam Darnold in action this season. Steve Wilks said he would like to give Darnold some work, though the interim HC did not indicate that would be certain to happen this week against the Ravens. “I’m interested in winning the game. This is not pay $250 to get to play,” Wilks said, via The Athletic’s Joe Person (on Twitter).

Carolina used one of its injury activations to move Darnold onto its 53-man roster last week, but the former No. 3 overall pick did not see any action against the Falcons. P.J. Walker is out of the picture for the time being, after becoming the third Carolina QB this season to suffer a high ankle sprain. Mayfield will make his first start since sustaining his ankle injury in Week 9. Here is the latest from what has become one of the more complex QB situations in recent NFL history:

  • After playing hurt last season, Mayfield has not turned it around. On the radar for a potential franchise-QB deal in 2021, Mayfield is on track for free agency for the first time. The market for the former No. 1 overall pick may check in at $5-$7MM on a prove-it deal, David Newton of notes. Mayfield’s 17.7 QBR ranks last in the NFL.
  • This situation has been in flux since Cam Newton‘s 2019 foot injury. Prior to the team making the Newton-for-Teddy Bridgewater change, GM Marty Hurney and most of the Panthers’ scouts were high on Justin Herbert. But Matt Rhule did not view 2020 as the window to draft a quarterback, with Jeremy Fowler of indicating in an expansive piece the team saw a jump from No. 7 overall to No. 4 — ahead of the QB-seeking Dolphins and Chargers — as too costly. While then-Giants GM Dave Gettleman was not keen on trading down, going most of his GM career without ever doing so, the Panthers not making a push for Herbert has led to QB chaos.
  • After the Panthers determined Bridgewater — a preference of former OC Joe Brady — would be a one-and-done in Charlotte, they made a big offer for Matthew Stafford. Negotiations between new Panthers GM Scott Fitterer and Lions rookie GM Brad Holmes at the 2021 Senior Bowl led to Panthers brass leaving Mobile believing they were set to acquire Stafford, Fowler notes. It is interesting to learn how far the GMs progressed in talks, because Stafford made it known soon after he did not want to play for the Panthers. The Rams then came in late with their two-first-rounder offer, forcing the Panthers and others to look elsewhere.
  • Rhule then pushed hard for Darnold, Fowler adds, after Panthers staffers went through film sessions evaluating he, Carson Wentz and Drew Lock. The Panthers sent the Jets second-, fourth- and sixth-round picks for the former No. 3 overall pick and picked up his guaranteed $18.9MM fifth-year option. Owner David Tepper begrudgingly picked up the option but became irked by the 2023 cost hanging over the franchise, per Fowler. Tepper is believed to have held up this year’s Mayfield trade talks in order to move the Browns to pick up more money on his option salary. The delay was connected to the Panthers already having Darnold’s fifth-year option to pay.
  • Tepper’s main prize during this multiyear QB odyssey, Deshaun Watson, was leery of the Panthers’ staff uncertainty, Fowler adds. All things being equal between the four finalists — Atlanta, Carolina, Cleveland, New Orleans — the Panthers were not believed to be Watson’s first choice. The Falcons were viewed as the team that would have landed Watson if the Browns did not make that unprecedented $230MM guarantee offer.
  • Fitterer offered support for a Mitch Trubisky signing this offseason, according to Fowler, who adds the team never engaged in extended talks with Jimmy Garoppolo‘s camp. While Garoppolo said the Panthers were in the mix, the team was believed to be leery of his injury history. Trubisky is in Year 1 of a two-year, $14.3MM deal. While Trubisky may well be available again in 2023, the Panthers — having added six draft picks from the Christian McCaffrey and Robbie Anderson trades — will be connected to this year’s crop of QB prospects.

Panthers Name Baker Mayfield Week 11 Starter

The quarterback position has been the source of plenty of uncertainty this season for the Panthers, especially in recent weeks. Another injury is forcing a change under center as the team prepares for Week 11.

Interim head coach Steve Wilks announced on Monday that P.J. Walker suffered a high ankle sprain during Carolina’s Thursday night win over the Falcons. As a result, he will be unavailable for the team’s game against the Ravens, and Baker Mayfield will once again take on the starter’s role. Sam Darnold will serve as the backup.

Walker became the Panthers’ starter in Week 6 after Mayfield suffered his own ankle sprain. The former XFLer continued in that role even after Mayfield was healthy enough to return, though the latter replaced him in the second half of their blowout loss to the Bengals two weeks ago.

Mayfield’s performance in that game, along with the IR activation of Darnold, gave the Panthers their top two signal-callers from the offseason available to start last week. Instead, Wilks went back to Walker for the primetime rematch against Atlanta. He will likely be sidelined for multiple weeks as a result of the injury, but Wilks indicated that an IR stint is not currently being considered (Twitter link via team reporter Darin Grant).

Mayfield, who won out a training camp competition with Darnold after his long-expected arrival in Carolina, has plenty of experience against Baltimore. The former No. 1 pick spent four years with the Browns, during which time he met the Ravens on eight occasions. His level of play with Carolina before the injury was a key factor in the team’s offensive woes, and the firing of Matt Rhule.

That will lead to increased scrutiny for him as he begins his second stint as Carolina’s starter. Mayfield, like Darnold, is set to hit free agency this offseason, so improved play in the second half of the campaign from one (or both) of them could go a long way in determining their financial futures.

Panthers To Start QB P.J. Walker In Week 10

Despite the pair of recent factors suggesting a change could be made, the Panthers will return to the status quo at quarterback this week. Interim head coach Steve Wilks has tapped P.J. Walker as the team’s starting QB for Thursday’s game against the Falcons (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of NFL Network).

Walker was benched at halftime yesterday after Carolina trailed the Bengals 35-0. Baker Mayfield replaced him, marking his first game action since suffering a high ankle sprain in Week 5. Mayfield’s level of play (a marked improvement on Walker’s 0.0 passer rating), not to mention his status as the team’s starter heading into the campaign, could have led to him resuming the No. 1 role.

Instead, Wilks confirmed that Mayfield will once again serve as the backup, Joe Person of The Athletic tweets. That decision was made in part due to the short week, Wilks added, and it will leave the team with the same starter from their previous meeting with Atlanta.

That contest, which happened just two weeks ago, saw Walker score what could have been the game-winning touchdown on a last-minute, 62-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Moore. A missed extra point (and subsequently, missed field goal in overtime) led to the Falcons ultimately winning the game 37-34. Walker’s performance did enough to have him quickly confirmed as the Week 9 starter, despite the fact that Mayfield had recovered and was able to dress.

Earlier today, the Panthers activated their other veteran signal-caller. Days before Sam Darnold‘s three-week window to be activated from IR expired, Carolina brought him back after he dealt with his own ankle sprain. His addition could have left Walker on the outside of a number crunch, but Wilks indicated that nothing has been decided yet with respect to the team parting ways with any of its three passers.

Attention will turn back towards Walker this week, with the team hoping he can rebound from yesterday’s performance. The 2-7 Panthers will have multiple options moving forward if they wish to make a change, though.

Panthers Activate QB Sam Darnold

The Panthers have added another name to the mix regarding their fluid quarterback situation. The team announced on Monday that Sam Darnold has been activated from IR. This will be their second activation of the year.

Carolina had until this Wednesday to make the move. If not, Darnold would have been ineligible to return this season. Interim head coach Steve Wilks‘ comments on the matter left the situation somewhat murky, but it comes as little surprise that Darnold will be available moving forward after his return to practice.

The 25-year-old suffered a high ankle sprain in the preseason, leading to the expectation of a prolonged absence to begin the campaign. That opened the door to offseason trade acquisition Baker Mayfield having an even firmer grip on the starting QB job in the opening weeks of the season, but he struggled mightily before suffering the same injury himself. P.J. Walker took over the No. 1 role for the next three games.

His level of play left Mayfield on the bench despite retuning to health, until halftime of yesterday’s blowout loss to the Bengals. Walker had guided one of the worst offensive performances through two quarters in franchise history, leading Wilks to replace him with Mayfield for the remainder of the game. That move left the starting spot wide open in advance of Carolina’s upcoming Thursday night game against the Falcons. Darnold – who, like Mayfield, is a pending free agent – will now factor into the team’s plans in the coming days.

In other Panthers news, more changes have been made along the team’s coaching staff. Cornerbacks coach Evan Cooper and defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni were fired today, as detailed by ESPN’s David Newton. Cooper had been one of several assistants with ties to Matt Rhule, and his job description included a scouting role. He will be jointly replaced by defensive staffer Bobby Maffei and interim defensive coordinator Al Holcomb. Pasqualoni, 73, has five years of DC experience in the NFL; this was his first season in Carolina. Don Johnson and assistant d-line coach Terrance Knighton will occupy his vacated role.

These moves come less than one month after Rhule and DC Phil Snow were fired, of course, as the turnover in the organization continues. With a new configuration on the sidelines, and, potentially, another new face under center, the 2-7 Panthers will host the Falcons to begin Week 10 as they hope to rebound from yesterday’s loss.