On Monday, the Carolina Panthers traded three NFL draft picks to the New York Jets to acquire quarterback Sam Darnold. New York received the Panthers' 2021 sixth-round pick and their 2022 second- and fourth-round picks.
The Jets drafted Darnold with the No. 3 overall picks in the 2018 NFL draft. While he sometimes played well, he couldn't live up to the hype created during his college football career at USC.
Darnold presumably is the Panthers' starting quarterback moving forward, a position they desperately needed to lockdown. While some fans and analysts may question Darnold's ability to be a successful NFL quarterback, he still has plenty of time left in his career to prove he can be Carolina's franchise cornerstone.
Darnold is now paired with coach Matt Rhule, who heads into his second season with the Panthers. He led the team to just a 5-11 record in the 2020 NFL season, but quarterback questions have hampered the Panthers since former starter Cam Newton departed last offseason. In Darnold, Rhule now has a young quarterback to mold.
The situation may benefit Darnold as much as Rhule. The 46-year-old is known for his offensive prowess as a coach with a proven track record in college football. Since Darnold isn't too far removed from operating collegiate offensive schemes, perhaps the two could form a formidable offense in Carolina.
Panthers may still draft a QB despite getting Darnold
Despite acquiring Darnold, the Panthers have been reluctant in naming him the starting QB for the 2021 NFL season. According to Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer, trading for Darnold doesn't necessarily mean the team won't select a quarterback in the upcoming NFL draft. Fitterer told the Panthers' official website:
"This doesn't take out of anything in the draft. 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," he added.
Rhule may want to have Darnold compete with a rookie quarterback for the Panthers' starting job, instead of simply handing him the keys to the offense.
It's not likely current Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will stick around, either, as the team is reportedly allowing him to speak with other teams about a possible trade.