Panthers Trade for Sam Darnold

Jets first round draft pick Sam Darnold has a new home according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter

The Jets hold the second pick in the draft which made the disappointing Darnold, who struggled with injuries and play in his first three years in the NFL, expendable. The Jets will be left with about $5 million in dead money while saving about $4 million in cap room. The return for the Jets is solid even if it is year away before they realize the main prize which is the second round selection. Darnold had played poorly and his stock had to be considered low. Recent top draft picks who have played at Darnolds level were signing sub $5 million contracts the last two seasons as free agents so to receive a 2nd and 4th rounder is a good return.

Jets GM Joe Douglas has done a good job now on two big trades the first being an absolute heist of two first round picks for Jamal Adams from the Seahawks. I think he has done a really good job of exploiting the “win now” mentality of teams that sees them discount future picks far too much in these situations. The fact that the return isnt going to happen until 2022 is probably going to see the trade get panned by the vocal fans of Sam Darnold in New York or at the least not see Douglas get the credit he deserves for this. This is a very good return especially when you consider there was no future for Darnold in New York.

The Panthers will take on $4.77 million in salary for Darnold this year and will likely pick up his 5th year option which will be a fully guaranteed $18.858 million making this a two year $23.63 million commitment to a question mark at quarterback. Last season the Panthers signed Teddy Bridgewater to a three year, $63 million contract but the return was poor and clearly they were desperate here. They were in a position to potentially draft a QB but they either did not like who was going to be left for them or felt that they would get jumped via trade making this the safer path.

Bridgewater has a $23 million cap charge this year and can be cut next year with $5 million in dead money remaining on the salary cap. Given Darnold’s injury history it would make sense to keep Bridgewater this year. Bridgewater has a $10 million salary guarantee on an $18 million salary and I would expect Carolina to try to get him to take a pay cut close to that guaranteed number which would offset some of the large number Darnold will make in 2022 if the option is exercised.

Cutting Bridgewater this year would cost the team $20 million on the cap if done before June 1 and $15 million if done after June 1 if they decided to cut ties with him this year. It is possible that a team could consider a trade but again it would likely only be under a scenario where he accepts a pay cut similar to what I proposed above or Carolina to eat some of the cost. A trade would cost the team $10 million on the cap (with any financial kicker added in).

This is a pretty big trade for Carolina. They will be giving away three draft picks for a player who may not even win a starting competition if the competition was open between he and Bridgewater. For a team in the middle of a rebuilding process where they are tearing down a really bad and old roster with cap issues this is really risky and they must really like what they see from Sam Darnold to make it. The change of scenery should be good for Darnold.

Timing wise it puts the Panthers receivers in a good spot. Their two star receivers- Robby Anderson and DJ Moore- are both free agents after 2021 and now they are expecting to have a star QB on an extension in 2023. This type of trade could push Carolina to extend their players sooner rather than later to make sure that they keep offensive stability around the new QB. Anderson played with Darnold in New York and could be the first to benefit.