Although the Carolina Panthers play in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, the Southern NFC franchise is expected to be competitive at a high level in 2020.
While severe injuries to several key players derailed plans for Carolina almost immediately, the Panthers ultimately closed out the 2020 regular season with a dismal 5-11 record and on their way to the No. 8 pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
Although NFL head coach Matt Rhule’s first-round pick didn’t go as planned in Carolina, the current Panther roster certainly has some very capable players.
Led by Christian McCaffrey, who was injured for much of last season, the Panther offense has also added veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the list for the 2020 season. Although the tandem had little time to get going due to a shortened offseason and a memorable year for McCaffrey, the signal veteran didn’t impress much in his first season as a starter under center.
After signing a three-year, $63 million contract with an independent agent, Bridgewater would move to Carolina, and the jury is still out on his future at a modest NFC South franchise.
With the Panthers making a grab for the top 10 in the NFL in 2021 and several great quarterbacks currently on the market, the Carolinas may end the Bridgewater experiment a little sooner than expected. A trade with Bridgewater would certainly mean more to the team, but his release would certainly pave the way for another big presence in the league.
Carolina now faces three quarterfinalists in the first round of the 2021 NFL Entry Draft. With the Jacksonville Jaguars in first place, the New York Jets in second and the Atlanta Falcons in fourth, a team that could be picking a quarterback right now, the Panthers could have a legitimate chance to sign a call-up to kick off the annual event this time around.
Of course, other franchises with a greater need for a quarterback than Carolina could participate in the first round via trade, while the Panthers’ position could allow the team’s front office to be creative in more ways than one.
The Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears and perhaps the Houston Texans and a few other teams are currently in need of a quarterback – the Texans may want to trade the team’s current starting quarterback, Deshaun Watson. There may be a deal between Carolina and Houston as both teams can fill their quarterback needs for the 2021 season. It should also be noted that teams that have missed a top quarterback may want to contact Carolina for Bridgewater’s services.
The Panthers had already beaten Bridgewater before the first period. Had the team been fired in June, it would have suffered a massive $20 million loss for a savings of only $2,953,125. If the team wants to keep the former quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints after week one, it will have to. In June, the releases, Carolina’s dead zone for 2021-22 would be reduced to $15 million and the dead zone for 2022 would be $5 million.
The savings on the 2021-22 Panther salary cap would then be $7,953,125. On the other hand, an agreement concluded before 1. June will result in a $10 million reduction in the dead zone next season, as well as a $12,953,125 savings in salaries. If Bridgewater is going to win after the first. June are sold, the Panthers’ dead cap would be $5 million in 2021 and 2022, resulting in a salary cap savings of $17,953,125 – a figure that would certainly be a great benefit to Rhule and his company.
In his first season at Carolina in 2020, the 28-year-old Bridgewater played in 15 regular season games totaling 3,733 yards, 15 touchdowns and 11 steals. He also hit five touchdowns on speed and 279 yards on the ground. Bridgewater did just over 69% of their pass attempts last season. Was it a terrible season? No. The season cost over $20 million? So, no.
With replacements P.J. Walker and Will Grier, the Panthers have deep quarterback space and an offense that could use some strengthening. For example, pairing players like the aforementioned Watson could change the entire landscape of this franchise – especially if players like McCaffrey and wide receivers like Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore are also off the hook.